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When the world economy serves up lemons — you make lemonade, right? As cliche as that sounds, there are some aspects of that classic proverb to pay attention to. It’s important for web publishers to make the best of their existing website traffic when marketing budgets are about to be slashed.

The contracting economy dominated hallway and panel discussions during two recent industry events (Digital Hollywood and ad:tech ny) that Collarity spoke at. Michael Learmouth at AdAge reported one informal survey predicting digital-marketing budgets will be down 10% to 20% in 2009. So, how can publishers squeeze the most money out of their existing site audience in the middle of the current economic storm? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Listen to Your Customers - adopt tools and processes that allow you to understand the content and advertising most favored by your most important online audience segments.
  • Make Decisions Based on Data - invest in tools that help manage resources based on quantitative success metrics, instead of qualitative guesses.
  • Leverage Pay-for-Success Business Models - invest in technology that doesn’t hit your expense budget until it’s delivered a clear ROI.

Collarity helps publishers harness every website interaction to optimize website ad revenue during uncertain economic times.

Levy Cohen, Collarity CEO, will be joining one of the upcoming Digital Hollywood Fall reinventing advertising panels of industry experts to discuss Advertising Accountability: Metrics and Analytics around Video, Social Media, P2P and User Generated Media. The focus is on advertising data analytics and measurability in a world of new media.

Collarity creates a new data dimension, which we call communities, also known as site audience segments. These are simply clusters of anonymous users with common interests, along with the content and ads they like. We measure the interaction of a site’s communities with the site’s content (videos they watch, searches they make, etc) and the interaction of communities with the site’s advertising. From this data we create a foundation of behavioral site knowledge.

Our platform is a learning system that establishes an implicit feedback loop between anonymous users and content/ads. For any given page or video on a publisher’s site, Collarity determines the communities most highly associated with it. Once that hierarchy is understood, Collarity can recommend the most likely “next step” for the user looking for similar content and which advertising the user would most likely respond positively to. Publishers are able to automatically serve content recommendations and ads which maximize website revenue.

The session will be held at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on Monday, October 27th from 3:45 PM to 5:00 PM. Levy will be presenting with Erin Hunter, EVP, comScore, Inc., Ken Papagan, President & Chief Strategy Officer, Rentrak Corporation, Charley Shoemaker, Director of Video Measurement Products, Nielsen Online, Konrad Feldman, co-founder & CEO, Quantcast, and Thomas Ellsworth, CEO, GoTV Networks. Mark Ghuneim, CEO, Wiredset, will be moderating the session.

Since first launching Collarity in November of 2006, we’ve conducted hundreds of press interviews. Invariably, the phrase “implicit data” or “implicit behavior” comes up during these discussions as part of the language describing Collarity’s technology or value proposition. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Collarity helps Web publishers create a more positive experience for their web visitors by interpreting “implicit interactions with content and ads” (searching, browsing, ad clicking, etc.) and using the statistical data related to these activities to recommend additional content and to serve more useful advertising.

In order to serve customers more effectively, in any business situation, it’s good to have an idea of what people are looking for — their interests, tastes and preferences. You can ask them directly for “explicit feedback”, but many people have a difficult time articulating how you can help them and it often puts them in an uncomfortable situation. The alternative is to pay attention to what web visitors are paying attention to — their implicit behavioral cues. Web publishers can use this implicit data to avoid starting at square zero when engaging their customers.

We’ve struggled with the term implicit — people don’t like it. It usually slows the conversation down. It often triggers bewildered looks and, even after we explain it, we’re not always sure our explanation is understood.

But now it looks like maybe we won’t have to come up with an alternative phrase. The world, at least in Silicon Valley, is beginning to adopt implicit into its native lexicon.

Last night the Churchill Club, “Silicon Valley’s premier business and technology forum”, held their annual “Top 10 Tech Trends” event — an attempt to predict where technology will take us next. Moderated by Tony Perkins, five of the valleys most prominent venture capitalists (Steve Jurvetson, Vinod Khosla, Josh Kopelman, Roger McNamee, Joe Schoendorf) each weighed in with a number of trend directions. As an added bonus, the audience of about 300 people was allowed to vote “thumbs up” or “thumbs” down with each of the top 10 trend predictions.

So, what was the number one trend that the audience supported? With ninety-five percent of the crowd supporting, it was “the rise of the implicit Internet” and the use of implicit data which was postulated by Josh Kopelman. You can read various accounts of the discussion on VentureBeat, Barron’s, and Kopelman’s blog.

We’re honored to be invited by Charles Knight and the good folks over at AltSearchEngines and ReadWriteWeb to participate in their pre-web-2.0-expo AltSearchEngines Get Together on Monday, April 21 in San Francisco. We’ll be contributing to the insightful discussion during the “User’s First: Give them WHAT they want, the WAY they want (and need)” panel along with HealthPricer, Spock, SurfCanyon, and thefind.com. The panel will focus on ways to deliver a more positive experience for web visitors who need information from a website.

Louise Story wrote a very interesting article in the New York Times this week (To Aim Ads, Web is Keeping Closer Eye on You) about the growing trend of using people’s past online behavior to target them with content and ads. The article infers that the sun may have already set on the anonymous Web 1.0 “On the Internet, nobody knows your a dog” world (Peter Steiner’s iconic New Yorker cartoon), as large Web companies vacuum up behavioral breadcrumbs, appending an ever growing dossier on each of us in an attempt to guess our next move. John Battelle noted the article (That Old Database of Intentions, It Be Growin’), as did David Kaplan (More Behavioral Targeting Than Even Savvy Users Might Expect: Study) at paidcontent.org.

Collarity believes that behavioral data can be applied anonymously, in a way that does not diminish personal privacy. Collarity doesn’t build individual behavior profiles (unless a person pro actively opts-in to this personalization level — normally a very small percentage), which is the main concern of the article. We also don’t track or store IP addresses. Finally, the information we collect is “intra-site” visitor data (we don’t track people moving around the Internet) which is held privately for the exclusive use of our web publisher customers.

Rather than creating person-specific records, Collarity uses data related to people interacting with site content and ads to form groups of anonymous like-minded visitors who are interested in specific subjects or topics. The activity within these implicit attention communities (could be 2, could be 200 on a site) create the headwaters of what we call behavioral relevance. Behavioral relevance is then used as the unified intelligence resource to generate more relevant site search results, provide recommendations (”users who liked this, also liked this”), and to serve advertising that these specific visitor segments respond to most often.

Collarity uses behavioral data (content searching, browsing, ad clicking) more like votes from natural site constituencies. We focus more on what the community-specific vote tallies tell us, rather than the individual voting record or profile of a given community member.

So, at the end of the day, Collarity doesn’t need to know that I’m a dog to be effective. There is no individual targetting of me as a dog or any data element that labels me as a dog. However, if Collarity determines that my behavior correlates with what it understands to be “dog-like” it may harness the knowledge of my clicks to identify which site content is most interesting to dogs or to identify which ads might be most useful for dogs. My behavior may be used, in essence, to normalize content findability and ad receptiveness for other like-minded dogs that arrive on the site after me.

We will be highlighting our video optimization abilities that have provided millions of web visitors with improved methods to search and discover video and improved monetization for media web publishers. Our customers, including FOX TV stations and V-me media cable network, have been able to successfully tap into the anonymous behavioral patterns of their entire website audience rather than a small minority willing to tag and create metadata. Collarity Compass services provide an effective platform for targeting both video content and advertising.

About Future TV Show:

Levy Cohen, CEO and Founder of Collarity, will be speaking with several other companies on the Impact of the Social Graph on Search and Discovery at the upcoming December 12th WebGuild Silicon Valley meeting in Mt. View. WebGuild meetings are always lively and informative. The session details are below:

John Battelle writes in a recent post, “the search space is heating up again, as social search takes center stage due to the MySpace and Facebook incursions on Google’s stranglehold”. The Social Graph has been dominating tech discussions ever since Brad Fitzpatrick got the OpenSocial ball rolling back in August. Tim Berners-Lee now wonders whether we’ll move from “www” to “ggg” — Giant Global Graph — as we move toward the semantic web.

We wonder how effective leveraging the Social Graph for search results will really be. When you look at your contact list and think about the people and activity associated with it (emails, IMs, phone calls, letters) does it seem like something that might help crystallize search relevance? It’s interesting to think about how social networks might leverage personal profile data and relationships to enhance search and ad targeting (the true primary interest), but there will certainly be a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat, as far as the data is concerned.

Collarity definitely focuses on relationships, but they are very different from the explicit associations defined in your contact list or your facebook page. Collarity focuses more on connections related to attention and knowledge — less on communication or socializing. These are the community-based implicit relationships between people, content, and advertising. We believe behavioral relevance distilled from anonymous user activity is the key to better search, discovery, and ad targeting for our publisher customers.

Try Collarity Video Search

Collarity has been providing community-driven video search services for our customer websites (example: myfoxny.com and vmetv.com) for some time, but we haven’t had a public demonstration area on our website where publishers and users can come to try it out. Well, we’ve now fixed that.

We’ve recently added web video search capabilities to www.collarity.com. Now, when you come to our web site and begin to search for information, you will be given the option to search through millions of free, high quality web videos (music videos, news clips, movie trailers, viral videos, etc.) using the Collarity Compass.

It’s easy to try for yourself. Just go to the top of our homepage, or any other page on our site, and find the searchbox.

When you place your cursor in the searchbox, you will immediately see the ajax assets of the Collarity Compass appear.

  • Index Choice: Make sure you’ve clicked on the “video” text above the searchbox, if you want to search for video content.
  • Personalization Mode Choice: You can toggle between Global Mode (results filtered by all site users), Community Mode (results filtered by groups of people most highly associated with the keyword you type in the searchbox), or Personal Mode (for registered users, results you’ve clicked on in the past).

Now type the keyword phrase that describes what you’re interested in. Here’s a picture of what it looks like when the keyword “weather” is typed.

The Collarity Compass overlay is immediately populated with additional keyword suggestions and thumbnail video links, provided by communities of users on our site who have already searched for videos using the word “weather”. As you mouse-over each thumbnail, you can see additional information regarding your video choices. At this point, you can do one of three things:

  • Click directly on a video thumbnail — a new browser window will open, giving you the opportunity to play the video you have selected.
  • Modify your search with different keywords or different personalization modes. As you change the parameters, content within the Compass changes real-time.
  • Hit the search button and you’ll be presented with a search results page containing a greater number of results.

Give our video search using the Collarity Compass a try. As always, we welcome your feedback. Please post comments here or send email to info@collarity.com. Thanks!

Quick. How does your business make decisions? Is it a “finger in the air” measuring which way the wind is blowing exercise or is it a “crunch the numbers” picture that comes to mind? Most business schools would tell you to not ignore your gut intuition, but understand when, and more importantly, how to apply research and data.

Ian Ayres, a Yale Law School professor and econometrician has recently published a book called “Super Crunchers” (NYT review, Newsweek review) that focuses on the powerful trend of automated, data-driven decision making in business – using numbers and statistics to steer business choices where human intuition formerly ruled. Think about jobs like bank loan officers that have been replaced by call-center attendants filling in the requisite pieces of the decision formula.

The book picks up where other books like “Moneyball” (Michael Lewis’ bestselling book about how the Oakland Athletics produced a winning baseball team by choosing players based on unconventional statistics while being at the bottom of the aggregate payroll scale) leave off. Newsweek couldn’t have summarized Collarity’s perspective on the trend better than their opening book review paragraph:

“If the editors of a magazine—NEWSWEEK, for instance—want to know what interests their readers, their resources are limited. They can count cover sales, but that only tells them about one story a week. They can convene a focus group, but that’s a cumbersome and costly way to assess the tastes of 3 million subscribers. Online, by contrast, that information is available for the asking—not just the numbers of readers, but how long they spent with a given story and what else they read. So as journalism increasingly migrates to the Web, the job of figuring out what readers want becomes almost automatic—thereby raising the question, how much do we really need editors, anyway?”

Their comment is tongue-in-cheek, but they are not far off the mark, and they know it. It doesn’t mean editors go away, it just means that journalism professionals have better things to do than creating lists of related articles for their readership. There are now tools that automate the process of figuring out which other stories web visitors might like to read, once they’re done with the current one. Newsweek goes on to say:

“this is a microcosm of a powerful trend that will shape the economy for years to come: the replacement of expertise and intuition by objective, data-based decision making, made possible by a virtually inexhaustible supply of inexpensive information. Those who control and manipulate this data will be the masters of the new economic universe.”

The point is that valuable data, feedback derived directly from your customers, is often plentiful and free. Companies that choose to use this information (think Amazon and Netflix) will turn the statistics into revenue. It’s not a new idea. It’s the core of what Tim O’Reilly talks about when he describes harnessing collective intelligence and Web 2.0. It’s also at the center of John Battelle’s famous “database of intentions” narrative.

For web publishers, the data exists. Now you just need a tool to put it to work for you. Collarity can help.

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