Archive for the ‘off topic’ Category

The Online Poker Phenomenon

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Poker ChipsThe poker phenomenon has swept the world by storm over the past few years. Not only does it seem to be on TV at all hours of the day, but there are millions playing online around the clock.

Sites like PartyPoker, ParadisePoker, AbsolutePoker, and PokerStars have risen to mammoth proportions. With multi-million dollar revenues and high-volume traffic, it’s no wonder the space has become so competitive, lucrative, and cutthroat. You could say the stakes are high (lame joke).

Marketing has surpassed the point of being annoying and obtrusive. It has attained the status of other such historic mass-marketed SPAM offerings, namely porn, erectile dysfunction, and weight loss. SPAM, SPAM, SPAM… “Come play at our POKER site!”…

Aside from SPAM, these deep-pocketed outfits market their services via more traditional online tactics like SEO and affiliate/referral programs.

Search engine optimization provides the free, qualified leads, but gaining first or second page status on the competitive terms in next to impossible. Long-tail traffic can provide steady users, but not sustain a large company. Secondly, these online poker sites are paying huge referral fees for new sign-ups. Referees and affiliates can make serious cash referring players to the given sites. To top it off, the players also receive a bonus, as they are usually given cash to start or try out the service, i.e. $50 for example.

Another subtle marketing tactic employed is through TV, magazines, and old-world media. These gambling outfits are not allowed to market their ‘pay-sites’. To get around this, they market a free poker service at their .NET address, as opposed to the regular .COM (which is of course the pay service). This allows the sites to gain exposure without breaking the law. Obviously, the sites hope everyone move to the .COM site and begin to pay. People either accidentally type .COM and end up there, or head to .NET and get referred there.

The free sites offer tuorials and, obviously, free poker games. The goal is to get you hooked… then pay, of course.

There are many incentives for poker players though. Money is the obvious first one that comes to mind. But fame, TV exposure, women, fast cars, and endorsements also ensue from success. The poker world is like Las Vegas. Hell, it is Vegas.

It will be interesting to watch the huge legal problems the industry has been facing with national laws and regulations over online gambling. Different countries have different laws. This creates for a huge headache as the Internet is worldwide, and cross-border regulations are ambiguous at best. In the past year the US has cracked down on online gambling, forcing some establishments to set up shop elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend continues in other countries.

Clicky is Free, Real-Time Web Analytics

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Clicky logoI’ve been messing with a lot of web analytic programs recently. I’ve been disappointed with some, but surprised by others. Most notably, I’ve used Google Analytics, 103 bees, Enquisite, MyBlogLog, and my default web hosting stats. Then along came Clicky

I’m definitely not saying that this is the best web analytics tool ever made, but it’s a simple, effective solution to what many believe to be a complicated process. Clicky is essentially a free, real-time web analytics tool. Yes, it’s free and real-time.

Once logged in, there are 6 main pages. The default start page provides an overview of the past couple days or weeks. Subsequent secondary pages include “Visitors”, “Clicks”, “Links”,  “Searches”, and “Pages”. The interface is extremely clean, easy-to-use, and intuitive. Navigation is a breeze. I think this is the reason I like the system so much. Plus, set-up simply involves creating an account and pasting a piece of JavaScript code in yor HTML.

Obviously the system tracks the de facto numbers such as page views, uniques, and visits. But it has a few added features that may be of use:

  • An IP blocker can be used to mask internal site use.
  • Web statistic RSS feeds can be pulled.
  • Numerous sites can be monitored off the same dashboard.
  • The date, time, and target page of every click are displayed.

… just to name a few.

Like I say, try it out and see for yourself. It’s free and easy to implement.

Google Analytics seems to be the stand-out web statistic solution at this point. But Clicky is a small solution that is super easy-to-use and very useful. Enquisite, 103 bees, and MyBlogLog are all useful as well, but in their respective areas of strength.

I’ve also dabbled with AW Stats in the past. However, I have yet to try Mint, so don’t grill me on this just yet.

Using Positioning to Emphasize Your Competitive Advantage

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

For the most part nowadays, new start-ups don’t usually produce revolutionary, ground-breaking ideas. Rather, they add a twist to an exisiting idea. This usually comes in the form of new features. However, a more interesting and potentially lucrative strategy is to focus on positioning rather than feature set.

How often do you hear, “We’re like Flickr but we have an XYZ feature which makes us better”? In many cases, start-ups that compare themselves to the big guns lack a credible offering. In addition, the added feature is often over-emphasized and impractical.

But what if a start-up were to say, “We’re like Flickr, but faster”? All of a sudden, there’s a case to be made. Other interesting examples include:

  • “We’re like Google, but provide more relevant results.”
  • “We’re like LinkedIn, but easier to use.”
  • “We’re like Digg, but navigation is simpler.”
  • “We’re like Yahoo Finance, but the interface is cleaner and less cluttered.”

Having a reference point facilitates the explanation of your value proposition.

People know the big guys. If you can take a similar experience and make it better somehow, positioning as such can work to your favour.

Another approach is to consider is comparing your start-up to a more well-known company, but in a different context. In the early days of YouTube, it became known as the ‘Flickr of video’. Why? Because it encompassed a clean, media portal experience with tagging. The only difference was that YouTube focused on video rather than photo.

Many niche social networks proclaim that they are the “MySpace of ___”. In other words, they are a social network tailored around the BLAH niche. But in saying so, potential users are once again given a reference point which helps them more easily visualize the service.

Using positioning and reference points to differentiate your service against competitors is extremely advantageous. Simply identify your strengths and position accordingly. Understanding your weaknesses is also important as your competitors will probably position themselves against them.

My Definition of Web 2.0

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

I think it finally dawned on me…

A web 2.0 company is one that “doesn’t scale proportionately with its user base”. As it leverages user-contribution and user-generated content (UGC), like photos and videos, much of the manpower is built in via the systems and functionality in place.

Harnessing the power of social media, a web 2.0 site or start-up relies more heavily on the technology than on its internal work force. This is the reason why many small operations have become so large and successful without having to scale up personnel.

Add to that the fact that very little financial resources are needed, manpower aside, and it’s no wonder we see so many start-ups trying to make a go of it.

Traditional Internet plays, like Amazon for example, need to scale in correlation with user growth. Human labour is needed to keep up with demand. For this reason, exponential growth is hard to achieve. On the flip side, Amazon will not plunge either, though a web 2.0 play could very well do so.

If you give people the tools to be successful and productive, let them be. They will do the rest. But be sure to listen to their feedback and constantly innovate.

MTW Gets Some Micropersuasion Love

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

For a reason that is unknown to me, Steve Rubel stumbled across MappingTheWeb at some point yesterday. In any case, he must have liked it as he posted a link to the site as one of his links of the day on his wildly popular Micropersuasion blog.

The blog “explores how technology is revolutionizing PR and marketing”. It is well-known as one of the most popular web 2.0 blogs focused around marketing and PR. Equipped with an Alexa rank of around 10,000 and a PageRank of 7, the blog has done very well.

Most recently, the blog received a template re-design.

Having said that, the link has generated a considerable amount of traffic for MappingTheWeb and it reaffirms that MTW is now on the radar…

Thanks Steve.