Does Your Remote Know That You’re Drunk?

There is a lot of innovation going on in the advertising world, where advancements in the internet and cable TV systems allow potential advertisers to get much more information about the people they are trying to get their products in front of.

This greater knowledge allows an advertiser to buy advertising that is much more likely to be viewed by people that would be influenced to buy their product.

A great example is to do a search for ‘mesothelioma‘ via Google.  If you look on the Google sidebar (on the right) you will notice that most of the spots -which are all paid for- are taken by law firms.

Very few cancers have a well established causal relationship to a specific souce (lung cancer and smoking being one of the others).  Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.  This allows lawyers to sue your previous employer, landlord, etc. for ‘causing’ your cancer by causing you to be exposed to this dangerous (but popular) building substance.  This has become a very lucrative business for lawyers that specialize in meothelioma.

Therefore, if you are searching for ‘mesothelioma’ on Google, you, or someone you care about, is likely a potential client for these law firms.  This has made this word the most valuable search word on the internet.  It is also this targeted advertising capability that makes Google worth ~$100 billion.

So, what is my idea?

Well, how much more would you be willing to pay for advertising space, if you knew for a fact that your customer was intoxicated?

Here is a scenario:  You get home from the bar with a serious case of the munchies, and turn on your TV.  A sensor in the remote detects the alcohol in the air from the breath you are exhaling.  This information sent into the network which has the capability to send specific advertisements to your TV.  Pizza Pizza, who has paid extra for this priviledge, sends an advertisement or email to your TV:

Click ‘order’ to accept this 5 minute offer for a Supreme Meat & Cheese Lover’s Pizza with 6 bottles of water and a package of Tylenol for the low price of $35!!

I think this is the beginning of ‘State-based Marketing’.  😉

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SfaUT: Top 5 Posts of ALL Time

Well, actually it has been about 1 and 1/2 years since I started blogging, and I wanted to see if any ‘Unifying Theme’ has popped up.  Also, for anyone who has watched network TV, you eventually get to that episode where the money and/or creativity runs out, and they resort to running a ‘retrospective’ episode of clips cobbled together from previous episodes.  This is the blog post equivalent…

Maybe it is different for other bloggers, but I doubt it: the posts that you really, really like are NOT the ones that get the most hits!  Based on the number of hits, I should create a blog about Rogers or RBC rants, or perhaps a restaurant guide.

SfaUT Top Posts

The top post, which still receives more hits a day than any other post, is a rant about the high data roaming charges that Rogers bills its customers, which I experienced on my trip to Asia earlier this year.  Apparently this is a common experience with a lot of people, which has led to a lot of traffic to my site.  If you type “rogers data extortion” into Google, my post is the top hit (as of today).

Next, in #2 position, is a post I did about Google.  I was watching Google regularly releasing applications that I am sure others were building their entire business case on, and had a thought:  What is happening to the web start-up industry as a result of Google’s deep pockets, and free applications?  This got picked up by a web aggregator called Ycombinator at the time, and has since been changed to ‘Hacker News’.  Of those >1000 reads, about 80% were in a single day, and has since dropped to zero reads a day!

#3, and deservedly so, is my assertion that Singapore Restaurant is the best restaurant in Ottawa, and why.  It shows up on about page 6 of a Google search on Ottawa’s best restaurant, so it must only be really determined people that find it… or they are using some other search tool.  With 662 views, I hope at least a few of those people actually gave it a try, Abba and Foo deserve the business!

#4 was another fee-based rant:  This time the target was RBC Visa and their overlimit fees.  Since I don’t carry balances on credit cards this was actually a sympathetic-rant for a friend I was helping with some financial counselling.  I actually got quite angry on the phone with the RBC representative and accused them of taking advantage of people that were not financially savvy.  Now I wish I had recorded it, it may have made a good audio clip for the blog.

Finally, to maintain my lack of a ‘Unifying Theme’, the last in my Top 5 list is about an observation I made of how similar Klee Irwin and John Waters look… judge for yourself! This was my second post about Klee, who came to my attention in his hilariously funny infomercials on dual-action cleanse.

It appears that I am STILL Searching for a Unifying Theme…

[Insert Catchy Title Here!]

The point of this post is based on something I learned from my weekend post “Rats, My Startup Just Got Googled!”.

That is, perhaps more than ever, the headline is the most valuable part of the story.

With the overwhelming number of blogs, many dealing with the same topic, you have to catch your reader quickly so they will invest time on the rest of your post.

I can’t state this with absolute certainty, because I have no way of knowing why people clicked on my recent post, but I saw an instant jump of interest when I (admittedly accidentally) gave people the impression that I may own a startup that just got acquired, or maybe killed, by Google. There was a pool of internet users that were, for some reason, interested in this topic. It was either that, or the lawyers online thought I was addressing the article to them in particular: Maclean’s – Lawyers Are Rats 😉

My previously most successful article had views in the order of 10’s. With the “Rats” post, I have seen 900 hits in the last two days! It was rated on WordPress as the 7th most popular post of the day, and as high as 3rd (that I saw) on http://news.ycombinator.com/ which contributed most of the referrals to my blog (hey thanks!).

So, can you use any title to attract attention? The challenge is to make sure that people don’t feel ripped off when they then take the time to read your post. Did they learn something? Did it make them laugh? Did it point them to other valuable places? If yes, then cool, and you can get away with catchy, but perhaps not relevant, titles.

With newspapers, the headline on the front page could sell the whole paper. This means that a newspaper or even magazine editor could just focus on one key message to get the readers to buy. Or rather, it was the product of the paper’s brand (say “Globe & Mail”) and the headline (“Internet collapses due to Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in HD”) that would impact sales.

On a blog, it is the product of the blogger’s reputation, and the headline. On the “Rats” post I got lucky on the latter, and hopefully increased the prior.

Rats, My Startup Just Got Googled!!

The consumer in me says: “I love Google!”. I really can’t think of any company which has given me so much cool stuff without me taking out my wallet!

The entrepreneur in me (a sometimes small, sometimes loud voice) looks at Google with a mixture of fear and envy. Why? Well, imagine you have poured your heart and soul into a startup project over months or years, to find out Google has launched a similar service for free just as your project is gaining traction! This is the stuff that makes people jump of bridges or tall buildings.

It is hard to believe that anyone could come up with an idea that one of Google’s thousands of uber-creative employees have not! I suspect that this discussion goes on all the time with Web 2.0 startups and their potential investors: “So, how do you know that Google isn’t about to launch this service and destroy our investment?”.

This depends on if big-company bureaucracy can be kept out of the Google machine. In the end, any large company is limited by the people who are making the decisions. Brin & Page, while brilliant, are still the two key people who are making product decisions at Google, that is, what gets linked directly to the http://www.google.com page and hence reflects on the Google ‘brand’. So two people (and maybe the CEO) control the ‘innovation’ that comes out of Google, who are hardly infallible. They have the difficult job of juggling the value of their Google brand, with the potential of stifling innovation. I think this means that there will be a lot of ideas that get pushed asunder, and that never get any internet user’s eyes on them.

The good news is that Google (and its competitors, who I have trouble remembering the names of these days), often will buy into other technologies if they feel that it gets them more eyes more quickly. Acquisitions of YouTube, FeedBurner, JotSpot, Picasa… the list goes on.

So the strategy is, come up with an idea, scale quickly, get media attention and get bought by one of the big players. If you don’t scale quickly though, or find a profitable nice market, you could get ‘Googled’.

Here are a (short!) list of companies that suffered the latter fate:

  1. Waifmail, an application that would allow you to access all your email accounts on the web, got killed by Gmail.
  2. AskJeeves, one of many search engines that suffered due to Google’s elegant search algorithm
  3. Anyone looking to launch a web-based office application suite (I used a couple now faded from memory and Google search archives). It did perhaps push Zoho to partner with Facebook.

Luckily, when you have a software startup, you can be quite nimble. You don’t have to build big factories or have other operational infrastructure that will impede you to change direction to another target market.

Is there a chance that anti-trust legislation will impede Google? Well, it is hard to get angry at a ‘monopolist’ that gives consumers something for free! This is in stark contrast to Google’s ‘mentor-of-sorts’ Microsoft, who it seemed everyone though was intent on taking over the world and screwing over consumers. That said, some people do try to leverage the monopolist angle.

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