Monday, March 17, 2008

Alan Greenspan is the Robert McNamara of economics

I was reading Krugman's latest piece on the ongoing meltdown of the capital markets, and he offered this quote:
Meanwhile, false beliefs in the political arena — the belief of Alan Greenspan and his friends in the Bush administration that the market is always right and regulation always a bad thing — led Washington to ignore the warning signs. By the way, Mr. Greenspan is still at it: accepting no blame, he continues to insist that “market flexibility and open competition” are the “most reliable safeguards against cumulative economic failure.”

It hit me: Greenspan, in practice and in retrospect, reminds me of nothing so much as Vietnam-era defense secretary Robert McNamara, the proponent of "the domino theory," and his still-ongoing and increasingly tragic efforts to shift all blame from himself long after the disastrous damage is done.


Greenspan's trumpeting of the ludicrous notion of efficient markets and support for the demise of market regulation will one day been recognized as equivalent folly.

The real tragedy here is that both of these men are geniuses in every sense of the word. It's impossible to watch The Fog of War and not come away impressed with McNamara. I highly recommend that film to anyone who has ever suffered even a little from hubris or ego. McNamara is smarter than you, better educated than you, more subtle and strategic than you, and he still blew it about as badly as a human being in power ever has done. Why? I can only guess, ideology.

Which is exactly how Greenspan has sent our country into our current tailspin.

Coming to a theater near you in 2028, _The Fog of Commerce_.

Hopefully, coming soon to a government near you, competence unblinded by nonsense.

Monday, March 10, 2008

NYTimes: It's all about the data, dummy!

Great article in the NYTimes on ad targeting and data scale. This is probably the first intelligent article in the mainstream media that I can remember on this topic - explaining that the combination of on-site and off-site behavioral data by consumers is what's driving the Internet today. An extension to the claims in this piece is that the same data is used to drive *products* (i.e. search relevance) as well as ad targeting; but I'll wait for their follow-up piece to close that gap.

Worth noting: The NYTimes has integrated "blogs" and their conversational style allows Louise Story to add some useful and interesting information to the more formal article. Check out her piece at the "Bits" blog for more data and further insight.

Some key quotes:
The rich troves of data at the fingertips of the biggest Internet companies are also creating a new kind of digital divide within the industry. Traditional media companies, which collect far less data about visitors to their sites, are increasingly at a disadvantage when they compete for ad dollars.

The major television networks and magazine and newspaper companies “aren’t even in the same league,” said Linda Abraham, an executive vice president at comScore. “They can’t really play in this sandbox.”...

Web companies once could monitor the actions of consumers only on their own sites. But over the last couple of years, the Internet giants have spread their reach by acting as intermediaries that place ads on thousands of Web sites, and now can follow people’s activities on far more sites...

“So many of the deals are really about data,” said David Verklin...

Some advertising executives say media companies will have little choice but to outsource their ad sales to companies like Microsoft and Yahoo to benefit from their data. The Web companies may prove they can use their algorithms and consumer information to better select which ads for visitors better than media companies can.

“I think a lot of publishers are going to find they don’t have enough data,” said David W. Kenny, chief executive of Digitas, a digital advertising agency in the Publicis Groupe. “There’s only going to be a handful of big players who can manage the data.”...

Even with all the data Web companies have, they are finding ways to obtain more. The giant Internet portals have been buying ad-delivery companies like DoubleClick and Atlas, which have stockpiles of information. Atlas, for example, delivers 6 billion ads every day. The comScore figures do not capture such data.
I am pretty confident that there is at least one zero missing from every number the Times quotes in this article. This is happening today at a monumental scale, and will only get larger as time goes on.

Data is the new lock-in and sustainable competitive advantage.

So how do you collect, store, and analyze all that data? That's why we built Hypertable...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Google uses prior searches and spelling correction to match AdWords

I imagine that one of the problems that Google has is matching existing ad inventory against all the wonderful random crap that searchers type in - with many searches being really hard to monetize by "traditional" means. Thus the many experiments they run. I wonder what the ROI on this particular example is?

This is a random discovery which came about as I was looking up some old co-workers. First names have been changed to protect the innocent.

First I searched for my old co-worker "Ed" Biasi:

Note that there are no ads. Name searches are tough to monetize.

Then I searched for my old co-worker "Joe" Satchel:

Note the ad match - It's for a Biasia satchel - which is apparently some sort of $200 name-brand purse:

Not only is Google doing spelling correction on my Biasi search, they're remembering the immediate prior search term to match the ad. Apparently they only remember one prior search - when I did the same search twice (either Biasi or Satchel) the ad disappeared.