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March 29, 2007

Gatineau has Google running scared

Well.... no. Okay, that's not true. Just fancied writing a sensationalist headline after a day at E-metrics London.

But Gatineau did get a mention at the recent WebGuild event on Web Analytics at Google's offices in Mountain View. Paul Botto, head of enterprise sales for Google Analytics (and formerly of Urchin), said that "the race would be on" when we release Gatineau later this year. Google is (naturally) planning to release some enhancements to Google Analytics - likely to include the ability to track non-page-level events (i.e. DIV changes and Ajax calls) - to coincide with the release of Gatineau.

There's something faintly nerve-wracking about being in Google's headlights - though I feel considerably more comfortable being in this position as part of the Microsoft behemoth than in my former life at wee little WebAbacus. And it's nice to be talked about, at least.

But the Google comment has me thinking: when Gatineau comes out, will you give it a try? Answers in the box below, please - and feel free to elaborate in the comments. Come back to this post any time to see the results; voting will close after a month.

Create polls and vote for free. dPolls.com

Update [4/2/07]: If you would like to be involved in the Gatineau beta (and haven't already asked), please e-mail us at [email protected]. If you've alread y requested a beta place, you're in our system, and we'll get back to you when the time is right ;-)

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March 22, 2007

How much are you worth?

I came across a very interesting article in last week's Economist Technology Quarterly the other day (which I was reading a week late, thanks to the efficiencies of the US Postal Service). The article mentioned a couple of sites such as AttentionTrust and Agloco which have sprung up to help users take ownership of their own online behavior data and sell this data to advertisers who want to target them with ads.

Both sites use a browser plug-in which captures browsing behavior and stores it online where it can be aggregated and sold on to advertisers. It's an interesting idea; since the user generates the valuable data about their own preferences, it seems fair that they should get a cut of the advertising revenues generated by this information (according to Agloco, up to 90%).

The only problem is that these users are already getting something for nothing - content. In the current model of ad-supported websites, publishers take money from advertisers who want to reach their readers, and use this money to pay for web hosting, design, maintenance,  content authoring, editing and all the other myriad expenses associated with publishing on the web. As a "thank you" to their users, they offer their content for free (ironically, even the Economist is doing this now).

But if users start taking a big piece of the revenue pie just for the privilege of making their eyes available to be presented with ads, ad-supported publisher business models could collapse. The only way out of this bind is if these "attention" networks can take so much of the weight and expense of managing user profiles off the publishers that they (the publishers) can afford to give away such a big chunk of the ad revenues to the users themselves. And it will be a long time before a sufficiently large number of users are in such networks to make it worthwhile for publishers to abandon their own behavioral targeting efforts. And as a publisher I'm not sure I would want to have to deal with multiple attention networks - so consolidation aroung a single (ideally not-for-profiit) network seems like another pre-requisite.

But the development is interesting, nevertheless. At the very least, Agloco's claimed 10 million users is testament to the fact that users are becoming much more savvy about their personal information and even their browsing behavior, and are looking to monetize themselves (what a great phase that is: "Honey, I'm off to monetize myself for the day. I'll be back around 6.30"). How much are you worth?

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March 16, 2007


My colleague Justin attended an interesting meeting yesterday where one of the subjects of discussion was how transparent Microsoft can (and should) be about its business models, particularly as they relate to subsidized or free products for consumers. According to Justin, the mood in the room was divided, with some participants favoring openness as a way of building trust and others feeling that consumers either wouldn't be interested in the complexities of our business models, or would be angered to learn of some of the ways we make money out of software that we don't charge for directly.

This latter position is understandable - some of Microsoft's deepest woes have been related to subsidized software, specifically Windows and the OEM deals that attracted the Justice Department's attention in the late 90s. Just how open do we want to be? Isn't that asking for trouble?

In the part of Microsoft I inhabit, almost all the software we are producing is given away for free, with the money coming through the sale of advertising on our network. Gatineau is no exception to this. We're not planning to charge for the service itself, because we hope that (amongst other things) users of Gatineau will become advertisers in our adCenter network, because they'll be able to leverage the integration between Gatineau and adCenter to build really great campaigns, based upon the insights they get from the analytics.

We really owe it to our customers to be open about this, not least because there will be aspects of the product's functionality that will address our need to monetize it (hateful word) as well as making it a great general-purpose web analytics service. A good (and fairly obvious) example of this is integration with adCenter. Strictly speaking, if you don't advertise with adCenter, and have no intention of doing so (though shame on you if that's the case; go check it out), then this feature is of no interest to you, and of course that means we could have developed something else that you'd have found more directly useful. But of course helping people to discover the benefits of adCenter is a key reason we're building this service.

It occurs to me, reading this post back to myself, that it could either be read as a coded rant about all the compromises we've had to make to Gatineau's functionality in order to kow-tow to the bean-counters, or as a way of getting my excuses in early about the functionality of the software. Neither is true - though now I've written them both down, I've probably seeded one or other idea in your mind.  Damn.

The point of this post is really just to give you an insight into some of the inherent tensions involved in developing free software, particularly when that software's source of revenue is at one or two removes from the software itself. Gatineau is being developed primarily to appeal to people who run commercial websites (though the definition of 'commercial' I'm using can include  a blog which earns a few bucks of Adsense revenue a month), partly because we feel that the business people in this audience are less well-served by web analytics tools, and partly because we hope that these are the sorts of people who might come and spend money with our ad network. Is it so very wrong to say that?


*there ain't no such thing as a free lunch

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March 06, 2007

Well, duh...

Good luck, Avinash. I think this is a great move - it's only a shame you're going to be working with the competition. :-)

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March 02, 2007

Web analytics in online recruiting

I got the following e-mail in my (personal) inbox today from JobServe, a UK recruitment site:

Dear Ian

For the last 18 months JobServe have been researching and developing a new type of searching technology that will provide superior candidate matching to recruiter's vacancies.

Just like other recruitment websites JobServe have offered the recruiters the option of searching a candidate database. In fact JobServe were the first back in 1994. Despite their claims these facilities are not very sophisticated. They simply provide the recruiter with a means of searching a candidate's CV and profile for a given criteria.

Until now that is. JobServe have patented and developed a new method of searching, which we have named Alchemy that combines the contents of the candidates CV with the data we collect from their behaviour when they use our web site. Such as the type of jobs they are searching for, those they are viewing and more importantly the ones they apply for.

The highlighting is mine. Having preached to companies like Jobserve for years that they should extract this kind of information from their web analytics data and use it "offline" (sort of), it seems like the message is finally getting through.

One of the loops that people often get themselves into with Web Analytics is an assumption that what you learn from your web analytics can only be applied directly back to the site, or at a stretch, at the marketing for the site. But that's not true, of course: web analytics can provide all sorts of insights that can be applied across a business, sometimes in areas not related to the web at all.

How good JobServe's "Alchemy" system is remains to be seen, of course. I haven't visited the JobServe site in the past year (my colleagues reading this may rest easy that I'm not hunting around for another job), so their data on me is pretty thin. But full marks to them for trying.

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