Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2009

2009 has seen a lot of Semantic Web and structured data activity. Much of it has been driven by Linked Data, a W3C project which gained momentum this year. According to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, Linked Data is a sea change akin to the invention of the WWW itself. We've gone from a Web of documents to a Web of data.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Google Acquires Teracent: Wants to Offer Smarter Display Ads

Google just announced that it has acquired Teracent, a display ad company that specializes in creating customized display ads in real-time based on machine-learning algorithms. While regular display ads always look the same for every user, Teracent's ads are automatically created from multiple creative elements and can change according to factors like geographic location and language, as well as the content of the website, time of day, and the past performance of different ads. As Andy Beal describes it, this is basically "multi-variate testing for your banner ads."

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pearltrees: A Design Interface for Remapping the Web

It's rare to look at a bookmarking tool and feel convinced that it's going to win a design award. Pearltrees is such a product. The French site offers us a new way to explore and contextualize the web. In what looks like a mind map structure, users collect "pearls" (links to articles, videos and web pages) and drag and drop them to form a body of knowledge that folds and expands upon itself. In an interview with Pearltrees CEO Patrice Lamothe, ReadWriteWeb found that company already has a loyal user base including our friends at ReadWriteFrance.

Said Lamothe, "We wanted a type of game play that was playful to use and map the web...and the fact that you can group and ungroup content easily means that you can re-catalogue it and keep it current."

Article Link

Monday, November 9, 2009

AdMob Is “Approaching A $100 Million” Revenue Run-Rate. Google Thinks It Can Be Billions.

When Google CEO Eric Schmidt mentioned a few weeks ago that the M&A spigot is now back on at the search giant, he wasn’t talking about a trickle. Today’s announced deal to by mobile ad startup AdMob for $750 million is Google’s largest acquisition since its $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick in March, 2008, and its third-largest ever after the $1.65 billion YouTube acquisition in 2006.

Why such a big bet? Because Google is gunning hard to dominate mobile Web advertising and AdMob has an early foothold in the display side. By focusing on the needs of mobile app developers, AdMob has “built what is approaching a $100 million business in three years,” says Jim Goetz, the partner at Sequoia Capital who sits on AdMob’s board, referring to the annualized revenue run-rate of the company. Since AdMob splits its revenues 60/40 with publishers, that implies AdMob is on course to see $40 million of that $100 million gross. The company is also cash-flow positive, with 140 employees.

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Not Playing Around. EA Buys Playfish For $300 Million, Plus a $100 Million Earnout.

After lengthy negotiations, Electronic Arts closed it’s anticipated acquisition of social gaming startup Playfish for $275 million in cash. An additional $25 million in stock will be set aside for retaining the top talent at the startup, and another $100 million in earnouts are part of the deal as well if the business hits certain milestones. So the total value of the deal could amount to as much as $400 million when all is said and done. Although, earnouts have a tendency to come up short (see Skype).

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Noticings: Geotagging Photo Game Powered by Flickr API

One app we didn't find - and one that brilliantly appropriates the Flickr API in a delightful, infectious user experience - is Noticings. Part game, part geotagging app, part photoblog, Noticings asks users to upload geotagged photos of interesting artifacts to Flickr. Users tag the photos "noticings;" those photos are then imported, analyzed, and scored, with extra points being awarded for those who post every day in a given week, who post photos of lost objects, or who post the first pic from a certain neighborhood. It is, as the site states, "a game of noticing the world around you."

"Many of us are moving so fast through the urban landscape we don't take in the things around us," the site reads.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Myth: Entrepreneurship Will Make You Rich

One of the unfortunate side effects of all the publicity and hype surrounding startups is the idea that entrepreneurship is a guaranteed path to fame and riches. It isn’t. Building a startup is incredibly hard, stressful, chaotic and –- more often than not –- results in failure. That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile thing to do, just that it’s not a good way to make money.

A more rational career path for money-making is one that rewards effort, in the form of promotions, increased security, salary and status. Startups, unfortunately, punish effort that doesn’t yield results. In fact, the biggest source of waste in a startup is building something nobody wants. While in an academic R&D lab, creation for creation’s sake will often get you praise, in a startup, it will often put you out of business.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

YouTube Integrates Promoted Videos With AdWords, Launches Them Abroad

As the most popular video site on the planet, YouTube has a lot of content to present to users at any given time (the site says that 20 hours of footage are uploaded every minute). That poses a challenge to premium content owners and other content creators looking to attract attention, which is why YouTube also offers a premium ‘Promoted Videos’ feature that lets you pay to expose your video to other users. And today, it’s making it easier to launch a Promoted Video campaign: users will now be able to manage their Promoted Videos directly from the AdWords platform.

The news comes soon after a number of other significant improvements to the Promoted Videos program, which has seen a 500% increase in clicks since the beginning of the year. In August, YouTube began integrating ads for Promoted Video directly into the site’s ‘Watch’ page (before that they would appear in search results, but not where users actually viewed content). And earlier this month the site began allowing the sponsored videos to appear in AdSense units across the web, where they compete in standard ad auctions. All of this is part of YouTube’s push to monetize the site, and to make it more appealing to its growing list of premium content providers.

Article Link

Monday, October 12, 2009

Half as many clickers in 2009 vs 2007

The Evolution Of Click Fraud: Massive Chinese Operation DormRing1 Uncovered

Anchor Intelligence identified a click fraud ring being run out of China which involved 200,000 different IP addresses and racked up more than $3 million worth of fraudulent clicks across 2,000 advertisers in a two-week period. That money was never paid out and the ring has now dissipated (or moved onto another scam), but who knows how long the ring was in operation before Anchor noticed. The operation was called DormRing1 because it was centered in dorms at technical universities in China such as the Shanghai Technology Institute.

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Web Ads Hidden Under Cloak of Invisibility

Kraft Foods, Greyhound Lines and Capital One Financial have bought some strange ads on the Internet lately. What's so strange about them is that they're invisible.

The companies might not have known about their invisible display ads—the kind that are supposed to appear alongside content on Web pages—if not for Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies Internet advertising.

Mr. Edelman says his research shows that all three marketers, and many others, have fallen victim to Web sites that use such ads as a way to sell more ad space than they have.

The Web sites can get away with it, he says, because online advertisers don't always audit their campaigns for proof their ads are appearing. It isn't clear how common these ads are or how much they cost marketers.

Verifying that ads appear is an issue that has long plagued traditional media, particularly commercials on local TV stations. But a single online ad campaign can appear on thousands of Web sites, making verification even harder.

Advertisers often buy display ads based on the number of times they are loaded onto a page, rather than the number of clicks they get. Over the past, year, an increasing number of scams have sought to take advantage of that pricing system as advertisers have started buying more of their online ads via middlemen called ad networks, instead of directly from the Web sites themselves. These networks sell ad space at cheap rates across thousands of sites, and they don't always weed out illegitimate players.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Everything You Wanted To Know About Startup Building But Were Afraid To Ask

Let’s say you have an idea for a startup. How do you begin the process of finding cofounders and employees, creating a corporation, handing investors, growing the company, etc.? There are lots of details about building a startyp that are usually a mystery to the newly initiated founder. Usually you have to learn this stuff on the job, making mistakes along the way.

But not anymore. Last night I saw a 45 minute presentation by Mint CEO Aaron Patzer at a startup competition event called Juice Pitcher on the Microsoft campus. The event, which is put on by TheFunded and, put a handful of new startups on stage to show their stuff and compete for a top prize. Between pitches, Patzer took the stage and told the story of Mint, in detail. His company just sold for $170 million to Intuit.

Patzer takes the audience (and now you) from the beginning of Mint, and gives some incredibly useful device. He talks about the early days of Mint, where he lived on $30,000/yr and hired engineers at just a little more salary by offering them significant equity. He also says that, as a rule of thumb, every engineer in a pre-revenue startup adds $500,000 in valuation. Every business guy lowers the valuation by $250,000, he half jokingly quipped. In its earliest days, Mint was burning $150,000/year, he says, for 2 founders and 1 engineer/contractor.

Patzer also spoke about financial modeling, keeping costs low throughout the life cycle of the company, and Mint’s revenue model. He also gives suggested goals and milestones for each successive funding round. One interesting fact – today Mint, which is free, generates $30/year/user from various offers and value added services.

There are lots of additional details, including, for example, various hidden costs in financings (mostly legal).

If you are a startup founder, you’ll want to bookmark this and refer back to it. It’s absolute gold.

Article Link

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Uncovering Connections on Twitter Could Become Big Business

f there's a hard-to-reach person you want to meet, one of the best ways to do so is through their friends. That's true in the offline world and the increasingly social nature of the internet may make discovery of the social circles of key influencers a powerful business practice online.

A new class of tools intended to surface influencers and the people they are influenced by are focusing on a hub of rapid, connected conversation that's wide open for analysis - Twitter. Could analysis of individual behavior on Twitter become a valuable tool for business development and marketing? A growing number of startup companies are making a case that it could.

Last week Twitter announced that it will soon allow users to create lists of friends that they can share with others. It's an attempt to make user discovery easier and it's cute, but it looks pretty rudimentary at a time when some companies are building enterprise-scale software for real-time discovery and analysis of circles of Twitter users, their expertise, influence and sentiment on topics.

On the margins of the developing Twitter-as-business tool ecosystem are startups building light-weight influencer discovery and analysis tools. Two of the most interesting yet have launched in the last 24 hours, in fact.

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Mobile Advertising Is Shaping Up To Be All Search

WIth the rise of Web phones like the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Palm (Verizon’s CEO says that 40% of its new phone sales are such smartphones), mobile advertising promises to be a huge growth area. The Kelsey Group, a market research firm, projects that the mobile advertising market will balloon from $160 million in 2008 to $3.1 billion in 2013.

Of course, that is just an educated guess which will turn out wrong. But there is no doubt that mobile advertising will be much bigger in four years, perhaps even ten to 20 times bigger than it is today. Where will all of that mobile ad money go to? Here I think the Kelsey group is more on target. It projects that mobile search will go from 24 percent of the total mobile ad market last year to 73 percent of the much larger pie in 2013, according to a recent research note put out by Citi analyst Mark Mahaney, which is where I’m getting all of these numbers.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

On the Internet, Everyone's a Critic But They're Not Very Critical

Average Review Is 4.3 Out of Five Stars; Jerkface Fights Back and Gets Bounced

Mr. Luster is part of a movement on the Web that's taking aim at 4.3, a figure reported as the average by companies like Bazaarvoice Inc., which provides review software used by nearly 600 sites. Inc. says its average is similar.
Many companies have noticed serious grade inflation. Google Inc.'s YouTube says the videos on its site average 4.6 stars, because viewers use five-star ratings to "give props" to video makers., which aggregates reviews from 3,000 sites, has tracked millions of reviews and has spotted particular exuberance for products such as printer paper (average: 4.4 stars), boots (4.4) and dog food (4.7).

Culture may play a role in the positivism: Ratings in the U.K. average an even higher 4.4, reports Bazaarvoice. But the largest contributor may be human nature. Marketing research firm Keller Fay Group surveys 100 consumers each week to ask them about what products they mentioned to friends in conversation. "There is an urban myth that people are far more likely to express negatives than positives," says Ed Keller, the company's chief executive. But on average, he finds that 65% of the word-of-mouth reviews are positive and only 8% are negative.

The vast majority of reviewers on Amazon "are a bunch of brown-nosing cheerleaders," says Mr. Schenker, who reviews under pseudonyms including Jerkface. "In an online store selling millions of items, there's bound to be many, many awful ones," he says.

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U.S. Internet Ad Revenues Decline 5.3% In First Half 2009

The IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers released U.S. Internet advertising stats today for the first half of 2009. The tally – $10.9 billion total, a 5.3% decline from the same period in 2008. This is in line with the 3.4 decline in worldwide ad revenues among four largest Web companies during the same period.

Search continues to take nearly half of all Internet advertising, with 47% of the total ($5.1 billion). Display ads, classified listings, lead generation and email took 34%, 10%, 7% and 1%, respectively. Search took just 44% of total advertising revenue in the first half of 2008.

Digital video jumped from 3% to 4% of the total in the first half of 2009, to $477 million.

2008 was the peak year so far for Internet advertising in the U.S., with $23.4 billion in total revenues. That’s up from just $6 billion in 2002.

Retail advertisers represented the largest category of spending, at 20%. Telecom (16%), Leisure Travel (6%), Financial Services (12%), Automotive (11%), Computing (10%), Consumer Packaged Goods/Food Products (6%), Entertainment (4%) and Media (4%) made up most of the rest.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

AOL, Yahoo Face Off to Impress Madison Avenue

The rivalry between AOL and Yahoo is on prominent display this week, as the two struggling Internet companies compete for advertising dollars on Madison Avenue.

They are pouring on the glitz as they vie for the attention of
thousands of ad-industry professionals at the Advertising Week
conference in New York.

Marketers typically don't negotiate specific deals to buy ad space
or time during the annual event. But media companies use it to tout
themselves to the many ad agencies and advertisers in attendance,
including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Verizon Communications, Bank of America and MasterCard Worldwide. The aim is to establish relationships and secure business down the road.

Article Link

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Facebook Sets Deal to Provide Ad Data to Nielsen

acebook Inc. plans to announce a deal with online measurement
company Nielsen Co., in a step to address advertisers' frustration with
measuring how ads perform on the social network.

the partnership, Facebook will begin polling its users about some of
the display ads it runs on its site, such as a banner promoting a movie

Facebook will provide that data, including responses from those who
didn't see an ad, to Nielsen, which will package it for advertisers,
say the companies.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is planning to
introduce the product, called Nielsen Brand Lift, in a keynote address
at an advertising conference Tuesday and to pitch it to marketers this
week in New York.

Facebook had a 9.1% share of display-ad views in the U.S. in July,
up from 6.8% in January, according to comScore Inc. That put it in
second place behind Yahoo and ahead of Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, comScore said.

The number of advertisers using Facebook's online system has also
tripled to tens of thousands in the past year, according to the
company. Advertisers say they are often spending more than $1 million
on campaigns on the Web site

In recent months, the site has launched new ad formats that prompt
people to take an action -- such as a forthcoming ad that allows people
to sign up to receive a free sample of what's being advertised.

It has also overhauled a tool that allows brands to build pages to
communicate with their fans and has rolled out a targeted-ad feature
that gives advertisers more control and guarantees over who sees their

Article Link

Monday, September 21, 2009

Case Study of Contexa at ReadWriteWeb: Context Improves CTR

The preliminary aggregated statistics of the six participating
sponsors (excluding Hakia), covering a 40-day period, demonstrate that
the Contexa system has met ReadWriteWeb's objectives:

  • The Contexa system increased ad clicks by 14% (i.e. advertiser received, on average, 14% more ad clicks).
  • The click-through rate (CTR) for Contexa was more than twice that of ReadWriteWeb's 125 x 125 banner ads.
Article Link

Pricing Tensions Shake Up Web Display-Ad Market

The market for online display ads -- those with text and pictures that
border a Web page -- has dwindled amid the ad recession to an estimated
$20.8 billion in 2009 from $23 billion in 2008

Some big Internet companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Time Warner's
AOL and Yahoo, are looking to profit from the discord. They are trying
to cut out the ad networks altogether by developing ad exchanges, which
allow advertisers to bid directly on the ad space available on a large
group of Web sites. Google unveiled its ad exchange Friday.

"Advertising networks are big aggregators. We have to emphasize that
we are premium," says Nada Stirratt, executive vice president of
digital ad sales for Viacom's MTV Networks. "We produce original content and attract fans, not just fly-by-night users."

In a bid to appeal more to advertisers and visitors, Web sites have
added pages of news or entertainment during the current downturn,
expanding their ad space and thus their reliance on ad networks.

At the same time, many big advertisers, eager to save money, have
shifted more online business to the networks. Ford now buys about 40%
of its display ads through ad networks, up from about 5% three years
ago, in part because it is "more efficient," says Scott Kelly, Ford's
digital marketing manager.

Article Link

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Dirty Little Secret About the "Wisdom of the Crowds" - There is No Crowd

Recent research by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) professor Vassilis
Kostakos pokes a big hole in the prevailing wisdom that the "wisdom of
crowds" is a trustworthy force on today's web. His research focused on
studying the voting patterns across several sites featuring
user-generated reviews including Amazon, IMDb, and BookCrossing.
The findings showed that a small group of users accounted for a large
number of ratings. In other words, as many have already begun to
suspect, small but powerful groups can easily distort what the "crowd"
really thinks, leading online reviews to often end up appearing
extremely positive or extremely negative.

Article Link

The Dirty Little Secret About the "Wisdom of the Crowds" - There is No Crowd

Recent research by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) professor Vassilis
Kostakos pokes a big hole in the prevailing wisdom that the "wisdom of
crowds" is a trustworthy force on today's web. His research focused on
studying the voting patterns across several sites featuring
user-generated reviews including Amazon, IMDb, and BookCrossing.
The findings showed that a small group of users accounted for a large
number of ratings. In other words, as many have already begun to
suspect, small but powerful groups can easily distort what the "crowd"
really thinks, leading online reviews to often end up appearing
extremely positive or extremely negative.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

5to1 Lets Publishers Regain Control Over Unsold Ad Inventory

5to1, a startup with a high-profile founding team that includes former Fox Interactive execs Jim Heckman and Ross Levinsohn, has raised $4.5 million
in seed funding to work on a solution that can turn remnant advertising
into premium advertising. The company’s breaking out of stealth mode
today at TechCrunch50 with a service that could rid both publishers and advertisers of the extremely ineffective ad campaigns that are basically only beneficial to the networks selling them.

The 5to1 system allows publishers to get in between the remnant
networks and the ad inventory to give them more control over what will
appear on the site, where and when. The company’s founder and CEO Jim
Heckman dubs it a “ meets iTunes for advertising” because it
allows publishers to dynamically create ‘playlists’ of ad units of
sorts and easily run both proper ads and potentially placeable remnant
ads on variable places on their website(s).

Ultimately, the goal is to make it easier for content publishers to
increase the quality of – and with it, the revenue that comes from –
the ads that appear on unsold inventory without too much hassle. And if
it takes off we’ll see a lot less of these horrible screaming ads that
you’d never click on even if they held you at gunpoint.

Q – Paul Graham: Humans can only do worse than the best optimization, right?

A: Pages are dynamic. What we found is that a vast majority of ads are not contextual, and we can fix that.

DataXu Optimizes Ad Bidding, Buying Across Exchange Platforms In Real-Time

The DataXu platform values, bid manages and buys ads on an
impression-by-impression basis, across the major ad exchanges and based
on smart algorithms. The platform is said to be capable of processing
hundreds of thousands of “ad decisions” a second, each returned in
under 100 milliseconds, through automated, campaign-specific algorithms.

Expert panel Q&A:

Q – Marissa Mayer: On a technology level, it looks impressive. My questions is: are you targetting people?

Ad buyers can build their own data profiles, so you can tweak it to
fit your core audience. The Internet is becoming more dynamic, and what
we’re doing fundamentally is make decisions quickly, change campaigns
in real-time and learn from past behavior.

Q – Paul Graham: What’s the rocket science behind it, the core engine?

A: Our system is designed to find the features that matters for
brand, really custom. Advertising is not a one-size-fits-all, you need
dynamic, intelligent algorithms.

Q – Tony Hsieh: We’ve dealt with third-party pixels at Zappos, and it causes problems. How do you deal with that?

A: As soon as we can tie data together, we can work, so it doesn’t have to be pixel ads.

Q – Marc Andreessen: What’s your sales model?

A: we can paid on a CPM basis, like an ad server, but a percentage on the lift.

Article Link

The Internet Is Killing Itself Softly With Remnant Ads

Ross Levinhson: AT Fox Sports, 70% of the inventory
was sold. If we sold out all the remaining inventory, I think in 2003,
it meant only $250,000 in revenues. We made a determination that a
quarter of a million dollars at that time wasn’t worth the hassle of
policing it.

On MySpace, we had to create scarcity where there was no scarcity.
So we had the homepage, ad networks were arbitraging. Tom shut that
down, no more ad networks on that inventory. If you have a site like
Hi5 or MySpace or Facebook, creating billions of impressions a month,
you have to find a way to create some scarce inventory so you can talk
to the Best Buys. They don’t want to be next to [remnant ads]

In many ways I think the Internet has killed itself to a degree
because there was a notion that I will just add another page without
maximizing the premium spots.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Value of TechCrunch50: Mint Acquired by Intuit for $170m Two Years After Winning TC40

Our technology was all open source, and essentially all free: MySQL
at the bottom, Hibernate to avoid the need to hire a DBA, Tomcat on
Apache, Yahoo’s YUI served as the base for our AJAXy goodness.

We didn’t have money for a lawyer, but no fewer than three offered
to help us incorporate and accrue $25k in legal fees for a little bit
of the company. We shared office space in a type of incubator, renting
by the cube to avoid a long-term lease.

We didn’t have money for advertising, so we started a blog. We
didn’t have money for writers, so most of our original blog content
then was guest posts from other personal finance blogs, plus a couple
of columns on people’s worst financial disasters.

To build demand, we started asking for email addresses for our alpha
9 months in advance of launch. Then when we had too many people sign
up, we asked people to put a little badge that said “I want Mint” on
their blogs to get priority access. We got free advertising and 600
link backs which raised our SEO juice.

Article Link

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mobile data show friend networks

Representation of mobile data survey (Stephen Guerin, Redfish Group)

Friendships can be inferred with 95% accuracy from call records and the proximity of users, says a new report.

Researchers fitted 94 mobiles in the US with logging software to gather data.

results also showed that those with friends near work were happier,
while those who called friends while at work were less satisfied.

data, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
showed a marked contrast with answers reported by the users themselves.

"We gave out a set of phones that were installed
with a piece of 'uber-spyware'," said the study's lead author Nathan
Eagle, now at the Santa Fe Institute.

"It's invisible to the
user but logs everything: communication, users' locations, people's
proximity by doing continuous Bluetooth scans."

The researchers
then compared the data with results from standard surveys given to the
mobile users - and found, as the social sciences have found time and
again, that people reported different behaviour than the mobile data

"What we found was that people's responses were wildly inaccurate," Dr Eagle told BBC News.

Article Link

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brazil’s boo-box Aims to Customize Online Ads

Some $65 billion in advertising is expected to disappear from traditional media outlets in 2009, according to a recent report from Outsell Inc.,
a media research and advisory company. Companies will instead focus
their investments on their own web sites and other forms of online
marketing, where they can make a direct connection with consumers.
While for publishers, this is just the latest dark forecast, for boo-box, a Sao Paulo-based online ad startup looking to break into the North American market, it represents a possible point of entry.

Article Link

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kontera Raises $15.5M For Annoying In-Text Advertising Technology

In-text advertising technology provider Kontera has raised $15.5 million from its current investors Sequoia Capital, Carmel Ventures and Tenaya Capital, the former venture capital arm of Lehman Brothers. This is the second Israeli startup to announce multi-million VC rounds today after 5min informed the public about its $7.5 million Series B round, and once again first reported by business news site Globes.

Kontera provides publishers with real-time semantic analysis
technology that can enhance content and other information to
dynamically link terms that most accurately represent and predict
user-intent and engagement. This is known as in-text advertising,
and you might recognize the double-underlined words on some sites that
make display ads pop up when you hover your mouse over them. Other
market players include Vibrant Media and Infolinks.

Personally, I find this type of contextual advertising annoying from
a reader perspective, and I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on any ads
launched by in-text advertisements, unless it was by accident. But I
keep hearing from publishers and advertisers who have implemented
campaigns using in-text advertising that it’s actually a highly
effective way of pay-per-click promotion, and you wouldn’t be the first
to tell they were skeptical at first but lauding the technology

With the fresh injection, the total amount of capital pumped into the company has now reached $32.8 million. The $10.3 million Series B round now dates back nearly two years.

Article Link

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Image Licensing Network GumGum Grabs $2.6 Million And Is Growing Fast

Image licensing network GumGum has raised $2.6 million in and extended Series A funding round led by GRP Venture Partners with First Round Capital participating. This brings GumGum’s total funding to close to $4 million.

GumGum has been seeing fast growth since its launch
last year. Measured as an advertising network (but for images), GumGum
became a Quantcast Top 100 site, reaching 13.7 million people in the
U.S. and 23.5 million worldwide in February. Currently, GumGum reaches
29.8 million people in the U.S. and 50 million people worldwide,
according to Quantcast’s lastest stats. More than 2,000 Web publishers
license images through GumGum, which allows them to pay based on how
many people see the image or use them for free with embedded

GumGum current clients include B5Media, gossip site DailyFill, Glam Media,
MTV, TMZ, New York Post and Gawker. Sites contract directly with photo
agencies, and GumGum keeps track of who is using what images and how
many times they are viewed. That is what those Quantcast numbers are
counting, thus GumGum acts like an ad network for images. GumGum’s
founder Ophir Tanz
says the new round of funding will be used to develop additional
solutions around image licensing as well as drive new revenue
opportunities to publishing partners.

Article Link

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quantcast Shakes Up Ad-Targeting Model

In 2006, it started out by offering a free service that allowed Web
publishers to track the types of people visiting their sites through
software code it placed on the sites.

The service put Quantcast in competition with Nielsen and comScore,
which track audiences based on the Web-surfing behaviors of panels of
Internet users, among other methods.

Now Quantcast plans to translate the technology it has installed on
more than 10 million Web sites into revenue. Its new media-buying
service, known as Quantcast Media Program, begins by allowing
advertisers to create a detailed profile of the types of people they
want to reach. Then Quantcast finds Web sites using its measurement
technology that are attracting those types of people. It takes a cut of
the revenue from the resulting ads sold by the Web sites.

Article Link

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Advertising During The Simpsons More Expensive on Hulu than TV

We'll laugh at this headline in the not so distant future, but for
the first time, buying a 30-second ad during a Fox broadcast of The Simpsons costs less than buying the same ad on Hulu.

Television broadcast ads during The Simpsons cost $20-$40 per thousand viewers. On the web, the rate jumps to $60.

Shows like The Simpsons and CSI are now commanding
higher ad rates on Hulu and than on television. It's a byproduct
viewers being twice as likely to recall web ads than TV ads, according
to Neilsen. (Which I would argue is a byproduct of Hulu showing us far
fewer ads.)

But before we all declare TV dead, remember that Hulu has only 37
seconds of ads per "30-minute" show while a Fox broadcast includes a
whopping 9 minutes of sales pitches. So there's still technically more
money in TV, which will change as soon as Hulu begins cramming 9
minutes of ads into each program.

Article Link

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opportunities For Entrepreneurs, New Venture Intermediaries

If AdSense is in decline, that leaves open a big market for
entrepreneurs. Publishing is not a winner-take-all market. Google will
not control all online inventory. Advertisers and their agencies like
choice. And users click on whatever is relevant.

We see two plays in this environment:

  1. Match relevance. Match relevance means parsing
    content to deliver more relevant ads. This is easy to say and hard to
    do. A lot of smart semantic tech ventures are focusing on this problem.
    This is smarter use of search technology than Quixotic tilting at
    Google's search bar dominance.
  2. Connecting CPM to CPA. This is another hard
    problem to solve but promises a huge payoff for the winner. Publishers
    like selling CPM (cost per mille): it is easy for them, and the burden
    of performing lies with the advertiser. Advertisers, on the other hand,
    like CPA (cost per action or acquisition): it is easy for them,
    and the burden of performing lies with the publisher. Both parties look
    at the CPC (cost per click), because that is trackable from both sides
    of the transaction. But CPC is just a proxy for what each really wants:
    CPM and CPA, respectively. Any venture that brings publishers and
    advertisers together with a deal that satisfies the needs of both will
    do very well. There is a huge opportunity here. High-quality websites
    that really engage with their audience will certainly do well by CPA
    metrics, but the solution will have to be really easy to implement.
Article link

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The State of the Market in Semantic Technologies


  • Semantic data mgmt
  • Semantic data generation
  • Databases
  • Integration and workflow

Tague said that tools are important, particularly in the enterprise.
He sounded a note of caution to tools vendors: they need to simplify
their stories, along with have "simple basic tools."


  • Semantics-powered link sharing
  • Network mining
  • News sharing
  • Tweet mining

Tague said that we shouldn't focus on providing "frosting" on top of
current social Web tools. He advised to focus on commercial
imperatives, such as the categories above.


  • Semantic ad placement
  • Contextual ad placement
  • Semantically driven landing pages
  • Mashup ads

There are clearly opportunities to improve advertising using semantic technology, said Tague.


Tague noted that semantic search may be "the answer to the question
nobody is asking." He said that we should look at general "semantic
search" vs domain specific semantically-enhanced search. The latter is
where the commercial opportunity actually is, but he questioned the
economics of general semantic search.


He put this into 3 sub-categories:

  • A-Content Producers - from back office to user experience
  • B-Editorial + Aggregation Publishing Models
  • C-Robotic publishing - aggregation only

Tague explained that Calais has really focused on this over the last
8-9 months. He said that classic publishers can get an enormous amount
of value from this. Right now the big focus is "back in the bolier
room," for example to cut editors from 3 to 2. He expects that later on
more focus will go on enhancing the user experience.

Tague thinks that B is the biggest opportunity, using Huffington
Post as an example. He said that it gives a "near newspaper like
experience" at perhaps a 5th of the cost. It's an area where they're
seeing adoption of Calais.


Tague noted that gaming is a huge industry that the semantic technology industry can learn from. He listed these attributes:

  • Great story line
  • High interactivity, immediate responsiveness
  • No interuptions
  • Graphically engaging
  • Seamless
  • Fun

So he asked who out there is trying to really change the user
experience in semantic technology? He listed 4 companies (all of whom
we've profiled on ReadWriteWeb):

  • Zemanta
  • Apture
  • Feedly
  • Glue

Tague told the audience that the next big innovation in interface
will be something that stays with the user where they are, which will
be mobile and in the browser.

Article Link

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Report on Mobile Web Use Displays Apple/Android Usability Issues, Successes

According to the Admob release, "While Gartner estimated global
smartphone sales represented 12 percent of total device sales in 2008,
35 percent of AdMob's worldwide ad requests in April 2009 came from
smartphones. This means that smartphones accounted for nearly three
times more usage than their relative market share." This might seem a
bit of a no-brainer; mobile web browsing on traditional handsets is
nothing short of torture and leaves the user less in the mood for
checking out ads and more in the mood for bloodsport.

Article Link

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mobile Ad Spending to Grow to $5.7 Billion

Advertising budgets for spending on mobile channels will hit $5.7 billion by 2014, according to UK-based market research firm Juniper Research. That will be just 1.5 percent of global ad spend, the firm predicts. Still, it looks like a good enough opportunity for Google and upstarts such as AdMob.

Article Link

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reid Hoffman: My Rule of Three for Investing

1. How will you reach a massive audience?

In real estate the wisdom says “location, location, location.” In
consumer Internet, think “distribution, distribution, distribution.”
Thousands of products launch every month on hundreds of thousands of
new Web pages. How does a company rise above the noise to attract
massive discovery and adoption? YouTube did it through existing
channels like MySpace, which already reached millions. Yelp had strong
SEO, which found them a mass audience searching for restaurants and
nightlife. Facebook’s University-centric approach landed them 80%
adoption across a campus within 60 days of launch. Every Net
entrepreneur should answer these questions: How do we get to one
million users? Then how do we get to 10 million users? Then how will
you get deep engagement by your users.

2. What is your unique value proposition?

The Internet space is crowded. A product needs to be sufficiently
innovative to distinguish itself from the pack, but not so forward
thinking as to alienate the user. Many entrepreneurs create incremental
improvements on existing products. This can be big – Google
revolutionized search when AOL and Yahoo! were presumed to have it
locked up – but more often, the pitch sounds like, “It’s a dating site,
but for senior citizens…” I want to see innovation that is
categorically distinct from existing propositions. Digg lets users
decide which headlines are newsworthy. tracks music listening
with an iTunes plugin and buffer great music discovery. Flickr enables
users to share and tag photos in new ways.

3. Will your business be capital efficient?

This may be the most important of the three. Even if you have a mass
audience and unique value prop, a business fails without cash flow. An
initial round of financing is important, but how reliable is later
financing? Will investors see the right elements in the next stage?
Your product must scale intelligently – this is why I like software. A
well-coded site can adapt to mass demand without its capital
expenditures scaling out of control. A product like TypePad can grow to
10 million users without half the growing pains of a service like
WebVan, the Web 1.0 startup that attempted to deliver groceries to
users’ doorsteps. Try reaching Facebook scale with a service like that.

With these three elements in place – mass audience, unique value,
stable funding – a startup has time to discover where it can make
money. Few business plans ever pan out like their owners intend. PayPal
started as a plan to beam payments between Palm Pilots. Google raised
funds with a vision to capitalize on enterprise search and ended up in
advertising. The formula is to build an audience with a great product –
then secure enough funding to figure out how to make it pay.

Since I’m focused on building LinkedIn, I’m not currently investing
in new projects, but I firmly believe now is the time to take smart
risks as entrepreneurs and investors. I hope these criteria help
startups make better pitches as they fundraise, and maybe even
encourage others to take the plunge. Good ideas need good strategy to
realize their potential, and if these criteria help a few more
companies find capital, it’s a win for everyone.

Article Link

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tags Is The Organization Tool For Mac Users Who Have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Tagging can be the super-organizers dream tool. Apple application developer, Gravity Applications, recently launched a tagging software, Tags,
that allows Mac users to tag all their files, including emails,
bookmarks, pictures and files. The tags allow users to assign keywords
for files, grouping many different files that have something in common.
The tagging feature also allows you to apply many different types of
tags to a single file or apply the same tag to multiple files, giving
the user a little more flexibility than just the file/folder system.
The software costs $29 but you can set up a 30-day free trial to see if
the application works for you.

Article Link

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twine Could Soon Surpass Delicious, Prepares Ontology Authoring Tool

Nova Spivack's semantic web company Twine
is developing a free service to write and host semantic ontologies; the
classification trees that enable machines to put concepts in topical
context. Ready to play Aristotle and create an ontology of cheese,
model airplanes, global anti-hunger organizations or any other topic?

What blogging was to publishing, a simple tool that made far more
people able to participate, Twine's new ontology writing and hosting
service could be to the act of teaching machines about new topics.

The company wouldn't let
us publish the new service's name but says it is aiming for a launch
date this year, as soon as a go-to-market strategy and appropriate
partnerships are lined up. The ontologies created won't only work on
Twine; they will be referenceable by semantic apps anywhere around the

Article Link

GumGum Wants To Turn Celebrity Pics Into Shopping Sprees With ShopThisLook

Image licensing startup GumGum
is introducing a new ad unit to go along with all of those celebrity
pics that it helps to distribute. Next time you come across a paparazzi
shot of Lindsay Lohan
on the Web, you might see a ShopThisLook badge next to the image
courtesy of GumGum. Click on the badge and window will pop up with
shopping links for clothes and accessories similar to what Lohan is
wearing in the picture. When possible, GumGum tries to match the exact
same pair of jeans, dress, or shirt.

GumGum tracks images that reach 25 million people a month across the
Web. It has data on which images are spread around and viewed the most.
Using a combination of image recognition technology and human editors,
it adds tags to the most popular celebrity photos. These tags then
trigger cost-per-click (CPC) links with images from Shopzilla and Shopstyle.
There is a lot of human editing that goes into this process. Image
recognition techniques are simply not good enough yet to completely
automate the process. But all GumGum has to do is tag the most widely
distributed images of the most popular celebrities to see if the
concept has legs.

Websites that license images through GumGum can either pay for them
or use them free with advertising. The ShopThisLook badges will appear
in place of the ads for certain images. Website publishers who pay for
the images can also opt in to show the badges, in which case they will
receive 30 percent of any CPC revenues.

GumGum CEO Ophir Tanz says that in early testing, the badges are
clicked on about one percent of the time, but that the click-through
rate to an actual item after that is 29 percent. That implies a blended
click-through rate of 0.29 percent, and the effective CPM is 90 cents.
These numbers are based on a limited sample, and before any effort to
optimize them.

(Read our previous coverage of GumGum here and here).

Article Link

Sunday, March 15, 2009

he Semantic Web: A Treasure Trove for Marketers

Natural-Language Search

Consumer-generated content gives companies an opportunity to
understand their customers' concerns and conversations. Yet because so
much content is out there, companies need filters to find the most
relevant conversations. Natural-language processing can provide this
function by automatically summarizing online content for useful
analysis by filtering compiled conversations.

Content Enhancement

While natural-language search helps companies interpret data and see
deeper into the trends in the conversations of their customers and
prospects, think of content enhancement as a way for companies to make
their existing content more valuable. As "social marketing" -- or the
practice of deeply engaging customers through content and social tools
-- becomes increasingly important, so too is finding ways of giving
that content life and context.

Article Link

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Semantic Web: A Treasure Trove for Marketers

Two technologies in
particular (natural-language search and content enhancement) promise to
bring companies much closer to their customers and deliver to consumers
more relevant content than ever before.

Semantic technology enables consumers and companies to find
information that is difficult to discover using traditional search
technology. Companies can use the results of this technology to improve
their marketing intelligence and provide more relevant content to their

With the cost of monitoring and providing relevant value to consumers lowered, the stage is now set for the development
of semantic technology: building out a customer engagement
infrastructure. Technology for finding relevant data may still be new,
but the deployment of semantic technology is giving a boost to the next
stage of development for mapping the engagement workflow to customers,
in which opportunities that appear on the web are brought to people who
can take advantage of them, whether marketers or consumers.

In essence, semantic technology will help marketers listen easily to
the increasing volume of content, sort through the clutter, and find
what's relevant to companies and consumers.

Article Link

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Online Ads: Even the Evangelists Turning Bearish

A lot of people criticize newspapers for just putting their stories
online, the same way they’d dummy them up on the printed page, rather
than really utilizing the two-way medium. I think you could argue the
same about the way many sites think about display ads. Too often it
seems a cat and mouse game where I’m chasing an ad around a page
looking for the close button so I can read some content. Sure, maybe I
look at your message more than I would in a banner. But it’s also
annoyed me enough that I will never buy your product. In many cases,
even a back-to-basics approach works better, as I wrote about in my
BusinessWeek column today that highlights some of the shockingly high CPM rates that un-high-tech email newsletters are getting.

Like so many things in the recession, it’s ultimately a good sign
that marketers are panicked. We might actually see some innovation here.

Article Link

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paid Search Just Got Visual: SearchMe Launches AdView Beta (Free Ads For First 500 Signups)

What happens when you make paid search ads both relevant and visual? Searchme,
the search engine startup which presents results as a stack of
full-page previews that you can flip through, is hoping to find out
with the beta launch of AdView. Its first foray into advertising,
AdView is SearchMe’s version of AdWords, except that instead of selling
of paid text links it will be interspersing into its results clickable
previews of entire Webpages, videos, or other visual advertising.

Article Link

Monday, February 23, 2009

GumGum Adds B5Media, DailyFill To Its Image-Licensing Network

Image-licensing network GumGum is growing by leaps and bounds. Measured as an advertising network, it is now a Quantcast Top 100 site,
reaching 13.7 million people in the U.S. and 23.5 million worldwide.
More than 1,000 Web publishers are licensing images through GumGum,
which allows them to pay based on how many people see the image or use
them for free with embedded advertising.

Today, GumGum is adding blog network B5Media and gossip site DailyFill to its customer list. They join Glam Media, MTV, and Gawker. Sites that rely on celebrity pics particularly like GumGum’s model.

Sites contract directly with photo agencies, and GumGum keeps track
of who is using what images and how many times they are viewed. That is
what those Quantcast numbers are counting, thus GumGum acts like an ad
network for images. Typical CPMs (cost per thousand views) are $0.15 -
$1.00 per image for sites that opt to pay instead of accepting ads in
their images. This kind of licensing model makes much more sense on the
Web, where small sites want the same quality images as large sites but
don’t have the resources to pay the same rates.

Article Link

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tagging The Real World: Sekai Camera For The iPhone Is Alive And Very Cool

A total of 52 companies launched at last year’s TechCrunch50 conference. Five of them got jury selection prizes, there was one big winner and a very special crowd pleaser: Japan-based Tonchidot’s Sekai Camera, an iPhone app that presents tagged information in the form of a graphical layer over images in the iPhone camera.

Charismatic CEO Takahito Iguchi delivered a memorable demonstration,
making the audience go crazy by fending off questions of TC50 judges
such as Tim O’Reilly if Sekai Camera really works with the words “Join
us!” or “We have a patent!”. The reason for the skepticism: Iguchi’s
on-stage show mainly centered on a pre-produced video clip, not an
actual product demo. This left people wondering if Sekai Camera isn’t
just vaporware for almost half a year during which it seemed like
nothing happened. But today I saw the app is real and working - on an


Tonchidot organized an invitation-only event at an exhibition in
Tokyo today, showcasing a working prototype for the first time. Sekai
Camera’s basic concept is still intact: Use the iPhone camera to
overlay tags and information onto any object in the real world. Users
then need to look through the camera to see icons pop up that contain
information on buildings, stores, sightseeing spots or objects.

The prototype I tried out today was a bit buggy but worked as
promised, showing tags with information (sounds, pictures and text) on
other booths installed in the exhibition hall. Many people speculated
how Sekai Camera works technically. The answer is simple: The user’s
location is identified through GPS (no cell-tower triangulation or
image recognition technology is being used). As the iPhone doesn’t have
an internal compass, the direction of where the viewfinder is pointed
at can’t be measured: Users need to flick fingers left or right to find
relevant tags that are around them (as demonstrated in the video I took
below). Tap a tag and the information it contains appears in the form
of a window, for example a picture with a comment box below it or a
voice message someone left earlier.



Tonchidot today showed they were rightfully chosen as a TechCrunch50
finalist. Sekai Camera is incredibly cool technology even though the
prototype version didn’t look as flashy as the previous one shown on
video. For a massive land grab, Sekai Camera will have to come up with
a viable business model, achieve a critical mass of tags to make the
app worthwhile and optimize the technology.

But Tonchidot is working on it. Iguchi said he is in talks with
companies interested in contributing commercial tags that could contain
anything from ads, coupons to product information for a fee. Tags are
also being scraped from various web services such as Yahoo Japan’s Wai Wai Mappu
(a community-style map information service). But Sekai Camera also
needs user-generated tags - lots of them. While a compass built into a
future iPhone model might solve the directional alignment issue, GPS
within buildings will most likely remain a problem for quite some time.
(For tagging the exhibition hall today, locations were measured through
Wi-Fi signals an external service called PlaceEngine provided.).

According to Tonchidot, Japan will be covered with social tags
first, followed by the rest of the world. Asked when Sekai Camera will
be available for everyone to buy, Tonchidot fellow Masayuki Akamatsu
told me: “In 2009, sometime when it’s warm!”. We will stay tuned.

Article Link