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The Net Takeaway: Page 2


Danny Flamberg's Blog
Danny has been marketing for a while, and his articles and work reflect great understanding of data driven marketing.

Eric Peterson the Demystifier
Eric gets metrics, analytics, interactive, and the real world. His advice is worth taking...

Geeking with Greg
Greg Linden created Amazon's recommendation system, so imagine what can write about...

Ned Batchelder's Blog
Ned just finds and writes interesting things. I don't know how he does it.

R at LoyaltyMatrix
Jim Porzak tells of his real-life use of R for marketing analysis.







Analyze people, not sites · 10/06/2009 02:48 PM, Analysis

I am continually amazed at how ignorant current tools are of the people actually driving the behaviors we are looking at.

Recently, a quiet buzz rose around an analysis of Twitter usage by a fellow running a pretty cool company called RJMetrics (yes, the name sucks. Yes, the initials of the founders are R and J). At Twitter Data Analysis: An Investor’s Perspective at TechCrunch, Robert J Moore examines Twitter usage in a couple of different ways. I wasn’t all that impressed with most of the analysis; it was pretty basic stuff.

But one of the ways I was most excited to see him highlight is the Cohort analysis. This is one of the most simple segmentations you can do: just take everyone who, say, did their first purchase in July 2009 (we’ll call this Time 0), and see what else they did over time (each month, say Time 1, Time 2, etc.). Do the same for everyone who did their first purchase in, say, Oct 2009. Then line everyone up on a graph so that everyone’s Time 0 is at the left, and then Time 1, etc. This lets you compare behaviors of clumps of people to see if their “lifecycle” is consistent.

There is more detail at A VC’s blog The Cohort Analysis as well as more detail at RJMetric’s blog post Cohort Analysis in RJMetrics which is a recommended read.

But at the end of the day, beyond the value of this specific analysis, I admire that they are examining “people who” and then looking at “what they did”. So many analytic tools are stuck on “what they did” and forget the people part. So, you can get lists of most popular pages, but not who visited them. You can get lists of most often sold products… but can’t do anything to understand who bought them. And I don’t mean just getting a list of cookies; I mean actually having a group of people and comparing their behaviors to a different group of people.

Here are a couple of simple analyses; see if your web analytic tool can do them:

As you can see, almost every question starts with a segment. (BTW, this is kind of unfair; even if I dropped the “people who” part, most tools can’t answer the questions above. That, too, is sad.) But the current tools have all sorts of limitations that prevent us from looking at “people who”:

This is really sad. I’ve had the luck over the past few weeks to use a bunch of different tools, and I am shocked at how poorly they let me examine my business. And yes, if you read What Web Analytics is Missing which I wrote over a year ago, you’d see that there has been 0 progress.

So, try doing a Cohort analysis of your business. Try looking at how groups differ, or are similar. And try to put people first in your analyses.

At the end of the day, I am trying to get people to buy things. The things don’t sell themselves… but looking at most web analytic offerings, that’s what they want me to think. After all, that’s all they are measuring.


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Change is here. Goodbye to Yahoo!, and Hello to Barnes and Noble · 08/12/2009 12:24 AM, Marketing Personal

Things sure have been quiet on the blog. Turns out, I was spending many of my spare cycles on some changes culminating in the news I’m delivering here.

Sure, I could have put the obvious reference to Bowie’s song, but this one is more fun:


Like so many companies these days, Yahoo! has been going through many changes, and some of those changes are great. But some, well, aren’t, at least for what I like to do.

The good stuff, like the people, the tech, the new analytics tools (you think you’ve seen Yahoo! analytics? You haven’t seen half of it yet!), these will continue to be great reasons to keep an eye on Yahoo! and the cool stuff in the pipeline. But after about 3 1/2 great years there, the massive changes (3 CEOs, groups created and destroyed, MS almost acquired, almost Google partnership, search outsourced, etc., etc.) mean that the company I joined back then is not the company I was with these days. And so I started looking.

And, even in these terrible times, there are actually quite a few different opportunities out there for folks with analytics experience. Over the past few months, I saw openings in e-commerce sites, agencies of all sizes, data services companies, media companies, and even some clients. (If you are looking, don’t give up hope, and work your network!)

But one of the most interesting opportunities was from a sleeping giant. Barnes and Noble is the largest bookstore in the US, and one of the top e-commerce sites. And get this: it wasn’t tagged. That’s right, no 3rd party web analytic tracking system was being used to measure this top online store.

And now, things there are changing. New leadership (from HSN and eBay among others) is really starting to shake up the Barnes and Noble of old. You might have heard some of the stirrings:

So, when they basically said, “You can work on measuring and optimizing our sites the way you want to, almost from scratch. And help measure the next big e-reader. And change the way books and media are sold online. And drive how data innovation should permeate our org.”, I was pretty pleased.

By the time you read this, I will have resigned from my role at Yahoo!. We left on great terms; the folks there are all top notch and I’ll miss seeing the Sunnyvale teams; the NYC folks I know I’ll see again and soon.

And, in September, I’ll be starting up as VP of Analytics (Web Analytics and BI) focusing on the online side of the house. Barnes and Noble Online is based here in NYC, so I’ll be focused on just one time zone instead of dealing with the neverending day of NYC gliding into Sunnyvale. In fact, in a strange twist of fate, BN is located in the Port Authority Post Office building, across from Chelsea Market… a few floors down from Google (and a slew of other fun companies).

Now, it’s not to say my work isn’t cut out for me. Some folks who heard about this change sent me nice notes about “Amazon will crush you!” and “Books? People still read books?” and “BN destroys local bookstores”. Some of that might be true, but I also had a great conversation with a writer, a poet, who said that BN really respects the writer, the artist behind the books, while Amazon and Wal-Mart and Target all just “ship product”. If a bookstore can convince a poet that it’s more than just a store, well, that’s saying something.

But at the end of the day, every business has challenges. The difference here is that we are on the cusp of a huge change. E-Books are moving into every type of readable material, from newspapers and magazines to novels to textbooks. And no one has gotten it right yet… So there’s lots of room to make the experience better. And for all of it’s acceptance today, e-Commerce is also pretty young (the first e-commerce site was only in 1987) and so there are lots of ways to make it better as well.

So, like Remo Williams, the adventure begins.

Comments? [7]

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Plaxo now charging... · 07/07/2009 11:08 PM, Personal

I’ve come to rely on Plaxo ( for 2 main features:

1) Address book sync with Outlook: When other Plaxo users update their info, I can accept those changes and they replicate down to Outlook.

2) Web access to my data: Similarly, my personal changes to contacts are replicated up and are available on, as is my Outlook calendar.

Plaxo has a bunch of other useless features for the “free” version including trying to be yet another social network and social aggregator.

Wellp, I guess Comcast decided that Plaxo was a money pit. They are now charging $60 a year for access to the Outlook sync capability.

Congrats to Plaxo: they will be gone within a year. Unlike LinkedIn, they have no redeeming feature beyond the sync… and if you scare people away from updating their info by charging them for the privilege, well, each person leaving the network devalues the experience for the rest, who then wonder why they are paying.

The comments are open. What other sync and cloud offerings have you tried? What is a Plaxo replacement?

Some mention, some mention trying Google’s outlook sync (which is only for the Premier apps bundle, not the free Docs.g.c, btw), some have mentioned LinkedIn which handles address book OK, but a) has no calendar and b) has poor privacy and contacts management.

My list of Plaxo Replacements

As Arnoud below mentions, Yahoo! has an Autosync offering that hasn’t been updated in a while… but a birdie told me that updates are rolling out soon, along with other Calendar improvements. Keep your eyes out for updates from these guys…

From Maskil’s Blog, I found mention that MSN has an Outlook-Hotmail Sync called “Microsoft Office Outlook Connector”. I haven’t tried it yet, so could be great… but I haven’t really spent much time with Hotmail or the MSN calendar. Maskil’s comments provide some alternatives as well, so worth swinging by his blog after you finish my list.

Google has a Google Calendar Sync which appears to be free, but the contacts sync, as mentioned previously, has costs.

Mac users all swear at, sorry, I meant by, swear by MobileMe which, while not free, appears to do most of the good stuff that Plaxo used to., as mentioned above, appears to have a nice address book integration, but is relatively new. LifeHacker was pretty positive on it, but pointed out (in the comments) that they will be contacts only, probably no calendars. was mentioned as an online “all in one” contacts syncer. Don’t know a thing about them. Appears to link to lots of sites ala Plaxo, but has no Outlook sync.

Zimbra has an open source option which can basically replace Exchange, so you can run your own web-accessible contacts and calendar… but I don’t know how it would sync with other systems. That is, you can have your own personal server with contacts and email and calendars… but if you also have to use a corporate Exchange server that your IT group set up, well, Zimbra won’t help.

Funambol talks mostly of syncing mobile devices, but somewhere in there it appears to sync with Outlook as well. This is an open source project that you would install on your own server, preferably one supporting Java and Tomcat 5.5 (or later) (Linux or Windows). The web client is pretty weak, but functional.

Glynx is an interesting idea. Instead of a site, it uses P2P to share your updates with others. Could be cool if it catches on. No calendar, however.

The amazing demonstrates just how much office app can be in the cloud. It’s actually kind of amazing. And their have a “CRM” offering which is free for 3 users (!) with an Outlook plugin to sync calendar and contacts. Google has a bit to learn from all that Zoho is doing.

HannsKK asks on Twitter if anyone had used UNYK... I hadn’t heard of it before. They have the “UNYK Syncro” (yes, that’s how they spell it) which is a plugin for Outlook. No calendar, but contacts integration and update.

NuevaSync appears to sync various Activesync phones with Google Cal, contacts, and Plaxo. Not quite the same, but interesting to know it’s there. Connect supposedly links Outlook calendar with Google Calendar and a few others. No contacts sync, but many of the others I list can handle that.

You can handle some syncing yourself. For example, you can store all your contacts in a PST on a shared drive ala Live Mesh or DropBox… but you run some risks if you leave Outlook open all the time. I would avoid this route other than to take periodic snapshots for backups.

So, we are looking for cheap or free ways to a) sync contacts, b) allow corrections, potentially via a social network, and c) allow web access to contacts and calendar.

Suggestions welcome!

(BTW, the head of marketing for Plaxo twitters at and blogs at Feel free to let him know what you think of Plaxo’s strategy.)

PS: I didn’t focus on other Outlook features like Notes or Tasks; perhaps some of these can sync those as well.

Comments? [8]

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Yahoo Web Analytics 9.5 launched! · 04/29/2009 07:59 AM, Analysis

I’ve worked on this project for months now, consulting on pieces from feature inclusion to wording on the confidence interval boxes.

And it’s finally here.

I could write a ton on how we put in stuff that will change how people measure their sites forever-more, but Dennis Mortensen did that and I encourage you to see the details at his post. He was one of the original Indextools leaders, and has continued to keep the product moving inside Yahoo!, an amazing feat.

We did a rockin’ good job on this one, if I say so myself.

Still here? Ok, look at this, then go to Dennis’s blog. I’ll wait til you get back to continue.

That’s right. We are providing demo and psychographic (interest) profiles of your user-base using Yahoo!‘s data. Cool stuff.

Hey, one more thing. If you think about what we added, the fact that we put in this amazing profile data and confidence levels, as confusing as they may be, reflects movement on putting in What Web Analytics is Missing. Specifically, More Who, Less Do and Too much Web, not enough Analysis... we are helping you understand your audience, and using statistics (kind of basic ones here) to start helping you understand what data to use and what it means.

Yes, it’s still closed to the general public… BUT if you currently advertise with Yahoo! via managed Search Marketing (meaning a relatively large account) or run your store through Y! Stores, you may be able to get access. Check with your account manager. If you don’t yet use Yahoo Search Marketing, well, why not? Look at the tools you can get access to!

PS: Yes, we did get rid of lots of the “pseudo-3d” junk and the use of grey in drop down options boxes. It’s minor but it just makes the tool look so much cleaner… long time users will see the difference


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Who Runs the Show? · 04/17/2009 11:29 AM, Marketing

I was reading an article in the WSJ about how Starwoods is suing Hilton and one snippet piqued my interest:

Hotel companies like Starwood and Hilton often don’t own hotel buildings. Instead, they rely on investment groups that pay hotel-management companies to brand and operate the hotels. The details of those contracts, including the fee structures and terms, are different for every hotel company and are highly guarded. A hotel company’s ability to develop and sell owners on a brand can be worth hundreds of millions a year in contract fees.

I kind of knew this, but hadn’t really thought about it. I stay at the, say, Hilton, and their name is all over every inch of the hotel, but they don’t own it, nor are they responsible for it. In fact, a holding company “owns” it, and yet another company “manages” it.

I started thinking about all the ways that I’ve heard about brands not being really responsible for the service and experience they are attached to…

A story on NPR talked recently about John Madden retiring from football broadcasting, and discussed how he got heavily involved with the Electronic Arts games bearing his name: “Not content to simply endorse the product, Madden would meet with programmers each offseason to make the game as realistic as possible. “

“Simply endorse”? What does that mean? It implies that someone would sell their name to something, but have no cares as to the quality of the product? Why put your name and brand on it if you don’t care about how it meets your brand attributes for quality, style, substance, whatever? I applaud Madden (I don’t like football and even I like the Madden series) but have we gotten to a world where endorsing really means labeling?

We do know that endorse, as a word, implies more about putting personal reputation behind quality, veracity of claims, etc. If you aren’t really doing that, you are merely a spokesperson… or shill… or just figurehead. Perhaps we need new words instead of celebrity endorser?

I was in Miami and saw a soaring tower being built, with the name Trump all over it. I asked some locals if Trump ever came and visited the area, and they said that Trump just licensed his name and has nothing actually to do with the building.

It appears the developers licensed the name, appearance, and some design elements of the Trump empire (gaudy gold furnishings, etc.) But Trump doesn’t control or have any say in the building, how it’s priced or it’s quality, etc.

Maybe Trump should to talk to Mr. Madden.

Dolce and Gabbana are famous designers whose handbags can be over a thousand dollars but their watches are just a few hundred bucks, not much more expensive than a Swatch. Why? Because they license their name to a 3rd party manufacturer, while they actually make the purses themselves.

Now, I am not debating the merit of a purse costing more than a watch, but merely the relative price disparity. The D&G name makes a purse cost 5x more than a similar but still good bag from say Coach or Cole Haan, which hit $200. So, why don’t we see that for the watches? That is, most good watches from mid-tier brands (say, Tag Heuer) come in at $900 to $1200. So, why aren’t the higher end D&G watches at $5K or more?

One could say that the watch market is different than the accessories / fashion market, but jewelry works like any other accessory. Brand raises price, and people still buy $7000 quartz watches. D&G has the brand to get away with something like this… but of course, they don’t because they license.

By the way, who makes watches for high end fashion house Versace? Timex.

Across these examples, we start to see 2 issues:
1) A brand is getting watered down and tarnished by being licensed to other products with no care as to brand planks. If you are luxury, known for quality and high price points, why would you plop your name on a cheap product at a lower price point?


2) When you have multiple parties all operating under the auspices of one brand, diffusion of responsibility sets in. When I stay at Hilton and have a complaint, who can address it? Hilton corporate doesn’t actually run the hotel; they just license the name and do some “francisee checks” on a periodic basis. The management company is paid by the property owner to be profitable. The owner doesn’t even set foot in the hotel; they pay the management company. Who has the ultimate responsibility to meet the expectations of the brand? Well, Hilton does, and they’ve kneecapped themselves from being able to actually do anything about it by licensing.

Now, I won’t argue that franchising is a huge financial and business industry that works in many cases. The reason you see so many fast food places, one nearby every time you are hungry, is franchising. The rise of many national chains has been predicated on some aspect of franchising or 3rd party management, not just hotels.

But this middleman aspect, this separation of the brand from the actual “implementation” of the service and experience, continues to hobble brands. Like outsourcing customer care, like putting luxury names on cheap goods, like having a management company and investment house deliver the hotel experience, choosing to place your brand on products and experiences obligates you to make sure they are at the quality your brand demands.

If not, all those years of building up a brand can be destroyed in seconds when that “Samsonite” travel strap breaks open and spills your gear, or that “Duracell” flashlight switch bends and breaks after a single use.

If it seems to be the right thing to do for your brand, I won’t argue with success. And I know we are all desperate for any revenue. But your brand name is all you have at the end of the day when things go wrong (and things do go wrong; just look at youtube any day of the week to see a brand getting pranked or put in a bad light), so tarnishing it yourself early (beat the rush!) seems like a huge mistake. Instead, if you stand for quality in all that you do and put your name on, then you have a leg to stand on when things turn dark.

This goes for people, for companies, for product lines. Brand-extension, even when you control the production, may not always be wise (yes, Burger King Underwear, we are talking to you).

Look around you. Look at each brand you see in a day, and ask yourself: How much of that service/product/experience does the brand actually influence… and if it’s not very much, one could ask, is the brand actually worth paying for?

Comments? [1]

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Nigel Pendse interviewed · 04/13/2009 12:46 PM, Database

One of the best interviews I’ve read giving the real story behind how people actually use BI, and its not exactly what all the vendors are saying. Well worth reading the whole thing…

For those who don’t know, Nigel Pendse has released an annual survey on BI software for almost 10 years now, and he has an amazing grasp of how the market has changed, and how it’s sold vs. how it’s implemented, including a “shelfware” measure. Its scary but fun to read quotes like:

Remember the most profitable product for a vendor is shelfware. If they can sell shelfware, they never have to go back in and see the customer or worry about ongoing support. Most of their marketing campaigns are aimed at selling the most profitable product, the shelfware.


bq.You assume products from big vendors have more longevity. But actually the opposite is true. If you’re SAP or Oracle or Microsoft and you have a BI project that’s going wrong, it’s cheaper to can that product and go and buy a replacement product from another vendor. But if you’re a small company and that’s all you do, you’ll fix it. I can think of 20-year-old single-product vendors that are still in business and still supporting their customers for all that time, but I can’t think of any BI product that’s survived at a big vendor for even 10 years.

Cool stuff.


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Strange campaign from Netezza · 04/10/2009 10:04 AM, Database Marketing

Netezza is an impressive company, no argument there. I’ve met some folks from there that I’ve really enjoyed talking to, and they deliver an impressive product (though it’s cost has continued to rise since the early days).

However, this “Data Liberators” campaign is somewhat odd, another case of misguided use of social marketing and “from the trenches” fakery.

The name is cute: The Data Liberators. They have a somewhat stilted and odd blog at They do have t-shirts and such with the logo, which is kind of violent, but some will like it. They have a twitter account, yadda yadda.

But, as usual, you have to read into it with some effort to discover that the whole thing is just an ad for Netezza. It’s not a movement for data independence ala Health Records or Facebook export, or even for providing more real consumer benefits of any kind. Netezza is mentioned here and there, but there is no copyright, no “sponsored by”, nothing to make it clear that this is an ad. Yes, they drop a few tiny hints: the writer is “ntza1” and their “Policy Truth” newsletter is hosted at

But only on this sign-up page do you see “©2008-2009 Netezza Corporation All Rights Reserved”. I suspect the realized that if they are collecting identifiers, it’s probably smart to leave some clue who they are, even if they feel no need to mention a privacy policy. And if you read the source code of the page, they reveal more of the truth (but not all of it) in the meta tags (clearly to them, it is more important to cater to the search engines than to your potential customers.)

Look, I love a clever campaign as much as the next guy. But I hate, hate, hate misleading ads. Virals that are staged to look “amateur”, fake “movements”, all of these cries for attention are saying “we have to lie to you to get you to listen to us”. Is the the kind of brand perception you really want?

Yes, by going over the top with a bombastic style and a few hints, Netezza hopes that savvy readers will get that this is an ad. And I’m sure someone mentioned that the best ads are ones that drive use of the product without mentioning it. Sometimes, that’s true. This is not one of those times.

My suggestion: Put an “about us”. Explain that the “movement” is a funny take on some real concerns, and that it’s sponsored by Netezza. It’s OK to raise FUD if there really is an issue to consider.

Netezza, you might be right about how Oracle is approaching big data. But after reading this ad, my trust of using your stuff to host my data dropped a few pegs,and that’s too bad. You guys changed how big data is stored and paved the way for the rise of data-driven corps by making the cost a fraction of Teradata; continue to keep our attention with more technical wizardry instead of misleading marketing.

Update, April 16, 2009 Netezza has added a nice About This Movement entry on the site which reveals that Netezza is behind the whole thing. I think that is a good step, and I applaud Netezza for taking the effort to pull back the curtain and clearly take responsibility for the site. Still not sure how it will all work for them (I still think the name would be better used for a movement of data portability across social networks or something like that) but being up front about the whole thing will allow everyone who does want to interact with the “movement” to do so with full knowledge of it’s origins and goals.

Comments? [4]

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Giveaways to Goose your Traffic? · 03/24/2009 01:21 PM, Marketing

Scott Bourne is giving away a Drobo (a fantastic SAN-type storage systems) to folks who link to his site or who follow him on Twitter (and Retweet his offers). talks more about it, and you can follow him on Twitter at

But at the end of the day, is this promotion driven traffic worth it? I can’t even tell you what Scott Bourne does, or why I should listen to him. Clever way to get some buzz, but buzz without substance dies down fast (unless it is goosed with money like the LolCats owners Pet Holdings Inc).

We’ll see if anyone remembers him even a month after he stops giving away things…


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How do "cheap" camera stores do it? · 03/24/2009 12:09 AM, Marketing

Lots of these stores litter the sidewalk around Times Square here in NYC. They show recent models in their windows with amazing prices. Many still use names that resemble the old fave “47th St. Photo” which, for a certain generation, was the only true bargain in NYC.

How do they get away with these low prices? WXP News has some good info on some of their tricks, writing specifically about online shops which play the same games:

Something else to be careful about when you’re buying online is to find out exactly what you’re buying. There are some online camera stores that are notorious for advertising incredibly low prices on popular DSLRs, hundreds of dollars lower than the price of the same item on Amazon or at other legitimate outlets – but there’s a catch. Sometimes the camera is a “gray market” import (sometimes euphemistically referred to as “international versions”), which means the manufacturer intended them to be sold in other countries where prices are lower. And what that means to the buyer is that the manufacturer won’t honor the warranty, and you may find that the on-screen menus and the manuals are written in a foreign language.

Even if the camera is a “genuine U.S.A. model,” some online retailers use another scam. That low, low price they quote, when you read the fine print, is for the body only. At an above-board store, “body only” means the lens doesn’t come with it, but most digital camera bodies come with various accessories such as the battery and battery charger. These scammers take that stuff out of the box and charge you extra for it – which in many cases raises their price for the whole package so that it’s equal to or higher than that same package from a more honest seller.

Look, there are retail prices, and then wholesale prices. One way or another, if the price is too low, you’ll pay it back in Shipping and Handling (see: Comp-U-Plus) or in accessories (see above) or in the lack of any support. One exception I would make: some “OEM” editions of hardware, if you are comfortable with a screwdriver, are usually good deals. If you are scared, though, don’t go for the lowest price out there if it’s really too low. Pay a bit more, play it safe.

Comments? [1]

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Playing with the feeds... · 03/23/2009 11:33 PM,

Prepping for some changes, and you’ll see it first in the feeds. Hope it doesn’t confuse anyone! I know, it’s a pain. Sorry bout that.


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