Archive for November, 2006

Why buy text link ads, when you can buy Text Link Ads?

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Just a short time ago, Text Link Ads (TLA) was acquired Text Link Ads logoby MediaWhiz. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

Though I’m not very familiar with MediaWhiz, I know they offer online marketing services. So it would seem like TLA is a good fit in their portfolio, assuming the price tag was reasonable. Apparently, this is only the first of a number of deals coming about at MediaWhiz.

TLA launched mid 2004 and since then has skyrocketed in popularity. Now hovering with an Alexa rank of around 1,000, the site has become very popular amongst the blogging community. TLA essentially provides a marketplace to buy and sell (yes, you guessed it) text link ads. So why the eccentric company name?

Recently, TLA launched a new service called Feedvertising, which allows publishers to place ads in their RSS feeds.

To read more about the acquisition, read this TechCrunch article or the press release.

WiFi Prediction

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

I met a friend at Starbucks today and the topic of wifi came up. With many coffee shops HotSpot iconand cafes now offering free wifi to customers, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes the industry norm. At present, some establishments charge for the service, but my guess is that as times goes by and prices decrease, free wifi won’t be seen as a privilege or bonus - it will be expected.

Now, let’s take this one step further to a city level. Already, many US cities have implemented or will implement free city-wide wifi networks. These cities include, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Hartford, Mountain View, and Portland to name a few. In addition, several Canadian cities are also venturing down this path. The most notable and leader in this area (of all places) is Fredericton, New Brunswick. Not exactly a corporate hub. Nonetheless, this small Eastern Canadian city has pioneered the free citywide wifi movement. Expect others to follow.

In my opinion, it is a very smart move if it can be budgeted properly. A city can benefit from a more informed and resourceful population. However, if the costs and infrastructure far exceed the expected rise in productivity, then the timing may not be right. But as broadband costs continue to plunge and wifi becomes an industry standard, my bet is that we will see more and more cities launch free wifi networks.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and laptops ready.

Topix Gets Top Dollar

Monday, November 6th, 2006

Popular news aggregation site has announced a $15 million round of financing with investments coming from Gannett Co., Tribune Company, and the McClatchy Company. This Series B round of financing comes as the company continues to drive significant traffic.

Since launching in early 2004, the site has already snatched an Alexa rank of 1,261. Pretty respectable by most accounts. However, traffic at Topix has flattened out over the past year. Its rank has only risen by a couple hundred spots, a small percentage rise in comparison to the exponential gains of previous years.

The site pulls feeds from all over the net - news, blogs, entertainment, local/world, business, and sports. In addition, the site contains forums and a classified ads section. According to GigaOM (see link above), the site attracts 9 million unique visits a month.

The concept behind the site is not overly revolutionary or extravagant. Pulling feeds from other sources is nothing new. However, the manner and execution of Topix has been nothing short of brilliant. The interface is very intuitive and well laid out. Ads are cleanly and cleverly integrated into the content in a logical manner. The site is essentially a mass-aggregated, organized directory of news stories and blog posts, in a nutshell. Features such as local and comments take it one step beyond a simple ‘feed’.

Though I am not a regular user of the site, I have been known to visit on the occasion and I am a fan. Functionality is useful, but not over the top. In an age where content is king, quality articles and feeds rule the landscape.

I am a bit hesitant and leery of the amount of money raised. A $15 million round seems extremely high for an aggregated news site. What will Topix do with this equity injection? Such a large investment must mean big things are in the mix. Will Topix move to new mediums of news dissemination such as radio, TV, or print? Will it begin to spin-off niche news sites? Will the company simply build the current offering and integrate sophisticated functionality and features? For the time being, all we can do is speculate. But expect big things to come as the world continues to move toward a more democratic news dissemination system.

Web 2.0 Bubble?

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Time and time again, people ask me, “Are we in a web 2.0 bubble?” And my answer has Web 2.0 Bubble?remained ‘no’ for quite some time now. Many are making comparisons to the bubble that burst in 2000, but I’m not convinced that the environment and conditions are the same.

Let me re-iterate that I am not living in the web 2.0 echo-chamber - or so I think. Every once in awhile, I try to step outside the boundaries of the online world to see the web from a non-techie perspective. It is very tough, to be honest. To me, sites like Flickr and Craigslist seem like household names that everyone knows about. But I’ve been surprised to learn that many of my friends and family had never heard of them. Nonetheless, I still do not believe we are in a bubble… yet.

I have taken several key factors into consideration before formulating my decision. These factors were present in the last bubble. Should these factors change, we may very well move into a bubble. They are:

  1. Less IPOs - straight up, we are seeing less companies going public. The IPO hype and hoopla of the late 90s is gone. Companies are listing only if the decision makes sense from a strategy perspective. However, we are starting to see more and more tech/Internet IPOs in recent times. Should this trend continue, especially with small web start-ups, we may be in trouble.
  2. Smaller Rounds of Financing - companies are raising much smaller equity rounds. Nowadays, a new venture can be started and operated on a much smaller budget than in the past. During the last bubble, anyone with an idea and a great Powerpoint could raise upward of $5, $10, or $20 million with relative ease.
  3. Revenue Models - it would seem like a revenue model is essential for any start-up. However, the previous bubble indicated that this was not the case, especially on the Internet. Any site that could garner considerable traffic assumed that a revenue model or, at worst, an advertising model would fuel company growth.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not believe we are in a full-blown bubble. Having said that, if we continue to see flashbacks from the late 90s or the key factors listed above change, then hold on to your RSS reader and wiki as we may be in for a rough ride.

Squidoo… or Squidud?

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Right off the bat, let me say this: I am a big fan of Seth Godin. I own numerous books and I read his blog on a regular basis. I have much respect for the guy. He’s an amazing author, entrepreneur, speaker, and all-around businessman.

BUT… I’m not so fond of his latest, hyped venture - Squidoo. It has garnered much publicity and traffic, but I’m not convinced that it is anything overly revolutionary or ground-breaking. Godin always tells of making something exceptional that people will talk about. In this case, I think he should have taken his own advice.

I don’t mean to sound overly cynical, but he’s created nothing more than a new social network with revenue-sharing attached. With Squidoo, users create their own ‘lens’, which is essentially a profile. The lens contains ratings, a bio, links, an RSS feed, and a quasi-blog format. To me, the site is nothing more than MySpace with some branding twists.

To the site’s credit, it has an Alexa ranking of 1,439 and climbing. On one occasion, it peaked under 1,000, so people must be using the service. Just not me I guess.

The site has obviously been designed for the average Internet user, not the innovator. Functionality is very simple, almost to the point of being child-like. I guess I’m just not a big fan, nor a convert. I know Seth Godin has a huge brain and is always full of insightful, fresh commentary and ideas. But in this instance, maybe there was a momentary lapse or an overexcitement. I just don’t see anything breath-taking and I’m definitely not going to ’spread the ideavirus’ for this site.

And let me finish by saying I’m not a cynical bastard who’s jealous of Godin’s fame and fortune. Like I’ve said before, I have much admiration for the man. I just know he can accomplish things that are much more creative and captivating than this.

Good luck on your next venture Seth.