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Time for a New Adventure

I’ve learned so much about writing from John Battelle and all the FM authors I’ve collaborated with since 2005, but I’m still having trouble finding the right words to announce that I’ll be leaving FM.

FM Logo

It was almost exactly 4 years ago that John, Andre Torrez, Jen Charette and I huddled around a whiteboard upstairs from a garage in Ross, CA, trying to convince ourselves that we could convince brand advertisers to support independent blog authors with their media dollars. Along the way, we’ve been luckier than we could have imagined back then. Our greatest luck was finding a group of kindred spirits to help us turn this idea into a media business. I’m so grateful for the support of the independent publishers who are rethinking how brands can join the conversations they facilitate; to the marketing innovators at large companies who put their necks out and entrusted us with their brands; and to the 80 some-odd people who share a passion for the FM idea so deeply they’ve put it on their business cards. You are the greatest teachers I’ve ever known. A special thanks to you, John, for giving me the opportunity to help shape FM, and for having the faith to make me your partner in crime.

It’s time, though, for my next adventure.

Digg Logo

In the coming weeks I’ll be joining some old friends and business colleagues at Digg, to be its publisher and chief revenue officer. In the spring of 2006, I first met Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson when they came up to Sausalito to talk to Battelle and me about an FM-Digg partnership to bring brands and sponsors to Digg. For the next year and half I spent lots of time with Mike Maser and John Moffett, two of the business leads at Digg. A small group of us (some on the FM payroll, others on the Digg payroll) worked with Intel to bring the Digg community some new product experiences, such as and , a labs project that provided a view of Digging activity at the topic and subtopic-level. We also partnered with IBM, Sony and others to build new, of Digg that aggregated and republished already-Dugg content about their own brands.

In the grand scheme of online advertising, these were small experiments. But the Digg process made an impression on me. Sometimes the best sponsorship ideas came from Kevin, ostensibly the head of product. Other times, Mike (the head of business) hit the pause button on a half baked — but fully funded — idea to make sure the sponsor integration wouldn’t disrupt the authenticity of conversation among the Digg audience. The best media businesses always work this way. Advertising doesn’t perform for the advertisers if it doesn’t also resonate with the audience; it succeeds only when it enhances the product and the conversation among those audience members.

And while Digg is a news service that’s grown to more than 35 million monthly readers over the past 5 years, it’s still early days for figuring out the models that bring brands into conversation with the Digg community. It may be the biggest media start-up (if you can still call it that) I’ll ever get the chance to work for, but it’s a project that’s as new and inspiring (and daunting) as the sketches Battelle, Andre, Jen and I scrawled on that whiteboard in 2005.

Maybe it’s time to spark up that Digg-FM partnership again! In the meantime, FM runs in my blood. To my friends at FM: See you at Red’s Javahouse and Sala NYC soon and often. I owe you more than I can ever repay.

MORE: Battelle’s post at the , including word on the promotion of two of the greatest stars in digital media: Pete Spande and Josh Mattision. And Jay’s post at the .

Google’s Hal Varian Explains How Adwords Works

Forget about naked ladies. This what passes for porn here at ChasNote headquarters: Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist, explains how Google’s ad auction creates relevant and high-quality advertising results by multiplying bid price (the maximum CPC the advertiser is willing to pay) with a quality score that takes into account click-through rate, relevance of the message and quality of the advertiser’s landing page.

The Logic of Syndicating Your Brand Into Social Media vs. Driving to Your Destination URL

From Mashable:

“There was a time when having a dotcom was absolutely key to your brand, and once you had one, it was the URL you pointed everyone to in all of your marketing. But with the emergence of the social web, and opportunities to engage with fans elsewhere, is that really the right strategy — or even a requirement at all?”

It’s become more popular — and perhaps more important — to promote brands and branded content within social-media conversations such as Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Delicious. One reason behind this trend is that it creates more frequent interactions between a brand and its fans. A Facebook fan page, for example,

“leverages some of Facebook’s strengths. When you vote in the poll for who is better — Kobe or LeBron — you get the option to publish that vote and an explanation back to your mini-feed, so your friends can see it. In turn, your friends might join in, become fans of Vitamin Water (which is also broadcast to the feed) and hence, the brand’s message and influence grows on Facebook. Vitamin Water has built some other actions into its Page that do similar, like interactive quizzes and videos of the superstars that can be shared with your friends….

“Although there are a few risks of building a campaign that directs users to a social media site versus your own property, the benefits are likely to far outweigh them if you can successfully get people engaged. Not to mention — what’s the last memorable corporate website you visited? Vitamin Water’s site — though impressive graphically and informative if you’re looking for details about their sports drinks — has absolutely no compelling reason to come back to it.

“On the other hand, users will keep logging into Facebook for the foreseeable future, and in turn, seeing updates from the brand on their homepage. Vitamin Water’s approach makes sense, and turns what would otherwise be a difficult-to-measure branded advertisement into an interactive one with tangible results.”

Pringles: Fighting to Save Money By Denying Its Food Quality

Is it worth telling your customers that your potato chips don’t have much potato in them in order to save $31 million a year in UK taxes? Given the mostly-negative hoopla over the past few days, stirred up by P&G’s legal argument to a high court in the UK, I’d argue no.

Cat in Pringles Can

Another money-saving idea it could try, , is convincing US state judiciaries that Pringles are actually newspapers:

“Pringles faces few such taxing issues in its home country. In Ohio, for example, Pringles and other snacks are exempt from sales tax, just like all food. P&G has printed messages on Pringles at times, but that hasn’t subjected them to the sales tax on magazines and books. And even if the cash-strapped state were to make that case, P&G could always argue Pringles are more like newspapers, which are tax exempt.”

Hey, maybe printing the news on thin strips of potato-ish substance is that new business model the papers have been looking for!

Eight Million US Women Publish Blogs, 23 Million Read Them

I’m just now reading through the BlogHer / iVillage study of women and blogging

Broken Windows full movie

Dorm Daze 2 buy

The Strangers dvd

Necessary Roughness download

Diary of the Dead movie download , which published last month. (Thanks, Gabe!)

23 Million US Women Read Blogs

Of the 79 million US women online, 42 million of them (53%) engage with social media at least once a week. Seventy-five percent of those women (31.5 million) visit social networks, 55% (23 million) read or otherwise interact with blogs, and 16% (6.7 million) do “status updating,” which the study suggests means Twitter but not Facebook.

The study breaks out various types of blog activity, and reports that 8 million US women are publishing their own blogs. While 76% of them say they’re doing it for the fun of it, 37% are motivated by the opportunity to educate and share advice, and another 22% do it “to persuade others.”

And it appears those blog authors are, by and large, succeeding at influencing their readers. Among the 23 million women reading blogs, 45% say they’ve decided to buy something based on what they learned while visiting a blog, and 40% say they’ve decided NOT to buy something based on an experienced published on a blog.

Quiznos Product Placement in Playboy Porn Short

According to Denver’s Westworld, this NSFW video was created by Playboy, and Quiznos denies any complicity in casting its sandwich in the starring role within it. The editors at Westworld call bullshit.

If you’re under 18, please ask your parents before viewing the below!

Measuring the Value of ExecTweets (and Things Like It)

My colleague Lester Lee gave me a tour of TweetReach today, a service that answers the question “how far did your tweet travel?” We sought to answer that question for ExecTweets, the Microsoft-sponsored site that aggregates and curates tweets from C-level executive twitterers.

We looked at the most recent 18 days and found that 1,500 tweets mentioned ExecTweets, and those tweets reached 317,000 individuals with over 4,400,000 impressions. Call it a frequency of 13.88 against a reach of 317,000 (excepting the fact that some people on twitter are actually pets or robots, of course). Over the life of ExecTweets, which launched in March, the pass-along — or tweet-along — reach has been closer to 20,000,000 impressions, around 10,000,000 per month.

Next we need to estimate the value of each thousand impressions. Would they be less valuable than targeted ad banners, since tweets aren’t big and animated? Or would they be more valuable, since each tweet is delivered to a subscriber who chose to follow the Twitter posts of person who sent it? (I’d argue that tweets are ignored or overlooked at about the same rate as banner ads are ignored or overlooked; let’s call that a wash.) If you assigned a $10 CPM to each thousand tweet-along impressions, a campaign that sparks 10,000,000 impressions per month is adding $100,000 in media value. That’s not nothing.

Meanwhile…. The positive PR around ExecTweets continues. Today from iMedia:

“It’s a smart branding move, and it makes Microsoft look great. In a way, it shows how Twitter is just like any other new medium. Stand next to it, and you look good. That’s less of an experiment and more of an old chestnut.”

Uncrate Launches Answers Section

Real advice from real men — that’s Uncrate’s promise. And it seems to be delivering. In the week and half since the service launched, nearly 19,000 members have registered, and 170 questions have been answered with more than 1000 suggestions. If that rate of activity keeps up, Uncrate Answers will have nearly 300,000 members in 6 months. How’s ChasNote get some of that?!

The Answers section of Uncrate is sponsored by . And has some grooming questions he wants help answering too.

Gillette Answers Image

(Disclosure: FM manages advertising and sponsorships for Uncrate.)

BNET Calls ExecTweets One of the Best Business Uses of Twitter

ExecTweets Logo

From a review of Microsoft-sponsored :

“I gotta say: This is good stuff! I came away feeling like Bud Fox hanging around a hundred Gordon Gekkos, soaking up priceless pearls of business acumen. ExecTweets is a must-visit site for anyone in sales or management, or trying to climb the rungs of the business ladder.

“Twitter users can directly; the service will apply a ‘good stuff only’ filter so you don’t get slammed with dozens of tweets every day. Alternately, there’s a new ExecTweets app for the iPhone that lets you read, retweet, reply to, and share messages.

“I’m going to hop out on a limb and say that ExecTweets ranks as one of the best business uses of Twitter I’ve ever seen.”

Dang, I have nothing to add to that!

(Other than a disclosure: FM and its partner Universal McCann helped Microsoft and Twitter put this together.)

Meanwhile, Facebook 09 Revenues Will Be Up Significantly Over 08

In 2008 Facebook generated around $265 million

Turner & Hooch video

in total revenues, according to The Business Insider, or closer to $280 million, according to TechCrunch. (Both figures are quite a bit below the $300 to $350 million

No Man’s Land psp


it hoped it would do at the outset of the year; but, hey, it was an unexpectedly crappy second half of the year.) And the future looks bright:

“Facebook is also now pitching financial projections well above what we’ve previously heard. The highest 2009 revenue number that has leaked out of Facebook is $400 million. But investors are now being told the company expects $550 million in 2009 revenue.”

If you assume the low-end numbers for 2008, Facebook could be looking at 108% year-over-year growth; and if you start with the high-end numbers, it’s still looking to deliver 96% year-over-year growth. While MySpace revenues will be down 15% Transporter 3 the movie . Wow. The market has spoken — in bold-faced capital letters.