A couple months ago I told my company about the Internet Summit. Although we are the interactive arm for the nation’s 3rd largest newspaper company, no one was aware that Raleigh (our fair city) was the home for the 2009 conference. A month or so passed, and finally corporate decided to pay the way for a few people. I was really excited, until I found out I wasn’t one of them. I would be on my own if I wanted to attend.
I attended the social event the evening before, which was really just a lot of networking and meeting new people. I walked over with my friend Jeremy Smith from Twine Interactive and we met up with Wayne Sutton, Jeffrey L Cohen, Jennifer Griffin, Jamie Tharp, Tucker Peterson and Gregory Ng all hanging around outside the Starbucks and checking in on Foursquare waiting for the pre-convention-pre-party Tweetup to start.
Eventually we all make our way down to the new Raleigh Convention Center. The interior is really nice and there is lots of food and drink to be had inside.
There are lots of familiar faces in the crowd. Michael Hubbard from Raleigh’s best interactive ad agency, Media Two, checks in right after me. Rachel Healy, web editor for the Garner Citizen shows up late, but is excited about the conference. My friend Ellen Lynch has decided it was worth the high price to expand her skill set.
At 6:30 the next morning, I picked up Ashley Berman Hale and set off for the real event. We ate the so-so baked goods (they should have used Crumb bakery for awesome yumminess) and hustle to grab a front row seat for the morning keynote addresses.
I found John Kosner, Senior Vice President and General Manager, ESPN Digital Media to be entertaining and knowledgeable. Especially interesting is how ESPN has decided they don’t care how people get content whether its on the web, print, tv, mobile, etc. As long as you check out ESPN’s content, they don’t care how you do it. That’s especially important because it allows you to be everywhere. Companies that ultimately wall themselves off and limit how you get content or products are going to stifle their growth because customers want freedom to choose how they receive it.
Some points I had written down…
- Younger viewers expect video EVERYWHERE! Mobile is huge, and still growing. They make money off their podcasts.
- They plan to keep rolling out more and more local sites.
- They try to “Super Serve” their fans.
- Their iPhone app has been downloaded over 3 million times. It uses your location to pull in local scores for you.
- “It’s an app world we’re heading into.”
- “The iPhone has really improved my life.”
- When talking about the redesign, he stressed that “the experience is crucial”. The focus groups had been complaining about clutter. That was their main aim, to clean out the clutter.
- Revenue from the homepage went up 35% after the redesign with less ad space but better ad treatment. (yes you read that correctly)
- 350 people work on ESPN.com 1/3 editorial, 1/3 technologists…
- The local sites, require more local people.
Richard Jalichandra is the prez + CEO of Technorati. He had some interesting data, but was a pretty lame presenter.
- More people than ever are reading blogs.
- Blogs ARE media. In 2008, 46% of bloggers self-described themselves as “professional bloggers”.
- That peaked enough interest for them to follow-up in 2009 and get more specific.
- In 2009, 28% of bloggers are professional bloggers who are making money.
- Bloggers are not just crackpots in their pajamas.
- 40% of professional bloggers have worked or are working in the mainstream media (less than 1% of the US labor force was employed as journalist in 2008).
- 73% of bloggers use Twitter, as opposed to only 14% of general population. They use it to promote their blog(73%), share links(67%), understand buzz(63%) and interact with readers(60%).
- Roughly 30% of professional bloggers spend more than 10 hours a week blogging.
- The Technorati top 500 “authority” blogs generate 300 times more posts than the average blogger. The top 5000 generate 100 times more content.
I headed into to listen to the Search Marketing Panel.
This panel was a bit scattered, but Cliff Reeves from Microsoft said Bing is trying to change the search experience by focusing on user experience and pulling in non-native content.
There was a lot of agreement that if your site architecture is fundamentally flawed, seo is magnitudes more difficult.
Also talk about real-time search and how “authority” seems to be getting more weight in search results.
I then decided to listen to the Morning Spotlight Speakers – Rick Klau and Seth Sternberg
First up was Rick Klau, Business Product Manager, Blogger/Google
- 10 million people a month use Blogger, and 220-230 million people each month visit a blogger site.
- 1/2 the people on the web, visit a blog every month, although surveys show that number lower since some people don’t know they are actually at a blog.
- Blogger is considered a pro-am type of space, where you eventually step up to WordPress or Typepad.
- There are about 292,000 words/minute being entered at Blogger!
- Blogger is the #3 Google product behind only search and YouTube.
- He spent the 2nd half of his time talking about how conversions are fragmenting – blog comments vs. facebook comments vs twitter comments vs Sidewiki.
- He suggest NOT trying to force the conversation to take place in one place, engage where your customers are.
Next up was Seth Sternberg, CEO and co-founder of Meebo, the web’s real-time communication platform providing instant messaging and group chat to over 40 million people. Seth had some interesting data on what gets shared, and how that sharing is happening.
- Facebook is now the #1 referrer to CNN.com. Facebook is in the top 5 referrers for most big popular sites now.
- Meebo has allowed over 5 billion conversations on their platform last year, that includes 75 million links being passed. What were those links?
- #1 was YouTube links
- #2 links to photos – and interestingly, the majority of them were to photobucket
- Seth said you should bias towards shareable video links, photo links and finally text links. To have your stuff shared more write about things from the following perspective:
- social pressure
- help me
- learn about me
- Success is getting 1% of your visitors sharing daily.
The Lunch/Panel Session I chose was Social Media: Engage
This was the one panel I wasn’t sitting in the front row for, and it made a huge difference. It was hard to hear, hard to focus and multi-tasking with my chips and sandwich only distracted me more.
Biggest take away for me of the whole day came from Matt Van Horn, Business Development Manager at Digg, who said, “Facebook Connect is one of the most awesome things we’ve done”. 40% of all registrations on Digg are now coming through FB connect.
After lunch I ran into the tiny meeting room to listen to Design and Usability.
- A simple zip code question caused 50+% abandonment rates, people thought it was to intrusive. They added a brief one line explanation, abandonment fell way back, and conversions doubled.
- WRAL used a rotator, but it was hard for people to get all the info, when they added static headlines below, much better traffic numbers.
- “we read IRL, we scan on the web” – Page Sands
- iPhone users walk up to kiosks and try to do gestures on the screen
- Above the fold is on its way out; people have bigger screens and less concern about missing info.
- You are now optimizing an experience.
- “people who are half asleep or heavily medicated can still use your site” -Dr John Morkes
- Usability tip:”Microchunk” content into easy-to-find, quick-to-consume, remixable pieces/parts
- A more usable site should be able to charge more for remaing ad positions.
The best speakers in my opinion were the afternoon spotlight speakers.
Gian Fulgoni from ComScore was up first, and he rocked the data!
- Surprising stat: 85% of all music for sale on the web last year was never purchased even once.
- Online classified revenue is down 32% over last year.
- “It’s inescapable that internet advertising is picking up market share.”
- US Media Spend: $118B on branding (63%) and $68B on direct response (37%)
- Internet Spend: $6B on branding (23%) and $20B on direct response (77%)
- 8% of all internet users account for 85% of all ads clicked, and many of them are new users.
- In 7/2007 32% of people had clicked on an ad, by 3/2009 it was down to 16%
He actually had so much data I couldn’t keep up, it was impressive.
Matt Van Horn from Digg talked next about what’s happening at Digg and what they are seeing in the future.
- Pictures are being shared most.
- You should focus on what’s key to you when adding sharing options, you don’t need 100, most only need a handful.
- CollegeHumor uses referrers to highlight a specific share button.
- New Digg API allows “Most Digg’d” functionality. Time and UK Telegraph use it with great success.
- Savvy content producers keep an eye to social media to see what’s hot.
- Talked about new ad service where users can vote ads up or down, and ad rate goes with the votes.
The last panel I attended was the Twitter/Real Time Panel
- This was a panel of mostly sposts related guys.
- The Phoneix Suns engage Twitter users with special deals.
- re: Monetization: “everything’s a transaction; who cares you had a grilled cheese sandwich? maybe, Kraft” – Don Brown (Twitpay)
- David Eckoff: “It’s not just about content, you have to establish CONTEXT”
- Notion of authority becoming important on Twitter
- Next Big thing on twitter…filtering tools to allow you to select the content you want.
Both of these guys gave really great speeches. Kennedy spoke about the importance of “disruptive innovation” (I was a little worried at first) in entrepreneurship and drew a phenomenal extended metaphor to the birth of modern film with The Great Train Robbery. Furthermore, he provided some really interesting facts about Pandora’s business, including the stat they have 20,000 new iPhone app registrations every day! What can you see that others are blind to?
- “it’s a REALLY bad time to release a crappy product” – Joe Kennedy, Pandora’s CEO
- Pandora gets 20,000 new registered users every day from iPhone app with no addtl marketing.
- “Just taking the internet and making it mobile = big mistake”
- Marketing needs to be more conversational, less one-way messaging
- Over $10M mobile ad run rate / year currently for Pandora
- mobile is not JUST making the internet mobile, main advantage is that its “with you” – location changes everything
- “1:1 web chgs everything (personalization) .. 2-way brings emergent collaboration (cocreation)”
- 38 million users, 5 billion songs played to date. $45M 2009 revenue
Doug Lebda from Tree.com was one of the most engaging speakers I’ve ever seen. Period. He did an unusual format for his keynote and structured it as a Q & A with the CEO of Peak10. He was incredibly honest and interesting, and the majority of his answers were centered around his entrepreneurial journey, his failures, how his company has evolved, and what he’s learned.
- “Raise a bunch of capital, then pretend you don’t have any.”
- “You have to be willing to change everything, while staying true to your core beliefs.”
So the take away for me from the entire day was: iPhone, location-aware, mass-personalization, love your customers, mobile and just try it.