Thursday, July 31, 2008

SEMPO Guide To Rome: Massimo Burgio

My recent travels had me in Rome for a few days with my kids and beyond the tourist stuff I did - funny being one of those guys I see in NYC riding the tourist buses but I now know they really are handy for visitors.

Wanting to see some of the real Rome I had contacted that ever popular Italian online marketer Massimo. He gladly offered to show us some local color. We met him in Travestere at the fountain at the piazza St. Marie - hope I got that close Massimo.

Now my kids are 16 and 13 and have traveled a bit and both were studying Italian, so this was a bonus 4 days on the way to Australia. My daughter loved the ancient ruins and churches, my 13 y-o son was mostly bored - no fights anymore at the Colosseum may have been a reason. So the side trip to an authentic neighborhood with a local would make for an interesting distraction.

I could not have asked for a better evening. We set out near his office and everywhere we stopped people knew and loved him. He gave the city the best spin and had my kids entertained with his stories. The daughter had some wine and water - as many Italians her age do at meals and we talked about the world that lay ahead for them.

After stops for aperitif and appetizers and then a great long dinner we walked a while and got them back to the hotel to get some sleep. Massimo and I had other plans.

He showed me his local - and by the greetings of so many old friends who see him about as much as those of us who do the search conference circuit - he is a loved character that everyone wanted to hear about his latest exploits. So we spent a couple of hours where he would not let me pay for a drink (after he bought dinner), introduced me to stunning and friendly models and all sorts of creative Romans.

Then the late night tour of the city began. On to his motorcyle, we went whipping through the mostly abandoned cobblestone streets and saw a side of Rome few tourists would be able to find on maps.

His love of the city showed and he knew all the cool places to see the city. Three spots with interior views of the Colosseum - little cul de sacs where the locals hung out. He even showed me an amazing sight at the Maltese Embassy (hope I got the right country Massimo) - but in this out of the way place with huge walls you walk up to a particular set of doors and there is a large peephole about the size of a silver dollar. You look in to the building and even though it was after midnight and dark, you had a view of Vatican - apparently the building is headquarters of the Knights of Malta - hidden away in Aventine hills where the richest houses in Rome are.

The midnight ride was a blast - cutting through restricted areas at the speed of sound - okay maybe a little slower but not much - hitting sharp turns and coming out on some great views of this fabulous city.

Massimo I had a blast and I will forever associate Rome with that great evening. See you at the next conference or maybe Burning Man. My kids will be talking about the conversations for quite a while.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My 12 Year Old Could Teach Yahoo and Microsoft About Fair Play

I am in Cooperstown this week watching my 12 year-old son play in the Hall of Fame Baseball Tournament. His team is 7-0 and on their way later today to play in the championship game - go Green Dogs.

I have been more proud of his sportsmanship and sense of fair play, than I am of his athletic accomplishments. Maybe the executives over at Microsoft and Yahoo could hire him to instill a sense of maturity.

As a stockholder I have lost confidence in Jerry's kids, but the actions of Microsoft and Carl Icahn have not thrilled me either. This is big business and most investors expect a level of professionalism from the companies we invest in and from the people who control them.

One of the teams in my son's tournament have displayed unsportsmanlike conduct and not just the kids but the coaches and parents. What chance do the children have if they see the adults behaving that way. My son's team has been upbeat, supportive of one another and are enjoying their days in the sun. When an opposing player got injured and taken away in an ambulance they were concerned and made sure to find out how he was doing at the end of the day.

Regardless of how the Yahoo/Microsoft deal plays out, I think both parties have lost perspective. What type of example are you showing your employees and investors?

Obviously this isn't the kids playing field - but maybe it should be!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Google Really Is The Borg

The idea that Google will soon be in a position to substantially control what happens on the internet is not a fantasy. Given their collection of data, the advertisers and product sellers, the publishers and readers, are all ultimately under the influence of Google opinion.

Given their search reach, what they determine to be worth reading is soon the common view. People use the references to link to and lift those sites in the other search engines' results. While they may show differences the top 100 across most engines have a deep similarity.

We face the possibility that Google is Big Brother and in Orwellian fashion Google determines what is news speak.

The recent launch of the Google Affiliate Network possibly shows a little too much of that manipulation.

They tell Publishers:

Google Affiliate Network can help you discover new advertiser referral programs and generate more revenue.

Easy to use

Save time with an intuitive user interface, fast-loading pages, and creative trafficking tools.

Tracking and reporting

Track conversions and member IDs for loyalty marketing. Schedule and save reports.
Automated payments

Receive electronic payments, consolidated across advertisers, twice a month. Choose from a variety of commission structures.
Support and development

Contact our experts for technical support or to help you find new revenue opportunities.

Publisher recognition

Earn AffiliateVIP status and enjoy exclusive marketing opportunities and greater visibility in the network.

Hold out that carrot and people will jump through hoops - remember when they were selling Gmail accounts on EBay.

And to Advertisers they promise filtering and success:

With Google Affiliate Network, you can manage a custom affiliate marketing program and attract publishers to grow your affiliate channel.

Affiliate marketing expertise

Consult with our affiliate marketing specialists on planning and distribution, account optimization, and technical issues.

Network depth and breadth

Choose from a wide variety of high-quality publishers based on detailed profiles and metrics.

Tracking and reporting

Track conversions, evaluate performance, and optimize your program with actionable data.

Network quality

Work only with qualified publishers who are continually screened, reviewed, and advised by our quality team.

Performance-based pricing

Rest assured that cost-per-action pricing means our interests are aligned with yours.

Will they lower AdSense income to push the affiliate advertising? Well they are supposed to be optimizing both sides.... but basically you put your companies in their hands. Fair exchange is no robbery - or this should be a win-win situation are cliches I expect to hear. But remember these are the guys who thought the Adwords minimum bids were a benefit to everyone - funny I seem to have helped finance all the work because I never saw a low CPC during that period.

Google seems ready to constantly be battling the government. Hey their lawyers are well trained by now.

To quote another Orwellian work: "All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others" and I guess Google gets to make that determination.

Just a heads up.