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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WATBlog Update There are 5 new posts in " - Web, Advertising and Technology Blog in India"

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There are 5 new posts in " - Web, Advertising and Technology Blog in India" - Twitter, Microsoft and FM Team up to What Seems an Online Advertising Escapade - Twitter’s First Monetization Step?

Find and Follow Top Business Execs on Twitter is how the tagline goes on Their about page reads as follows: ExecTweets is a resource to help you find and follow the top business executives on Twitter. Created by Federated Media, in partnership with Microsoft, ExecTweets is a platform that aggregates the tweets of top business execs and empowers the community to surface the most insightful, business-related tweets.

In other words Twitter and Federated Media have come up with an online branding/advertising solution for Microsoft. In further words Twitter might have just cut its monetization chord.

It makes sense that way to me, Federated Media is an agency championing the conversational mode of advertising. Twitter is a champion of conversational media. Microsoft is clearly a brand at the forefront of online advertising as an advertiser.

If I am not wrong this is the first instance of a Twitter promoted third party website, and it clearly has a revenue arrangement with Microsoft as a sponsor. Ok I guess you get my point.

The website is essentially a collection of tweets from top business heads on Twitter like Virgin's Richard Branson, eBay's Pierre Omidyar, Digg's Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose, Twitter's own Evan William and yes, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. The exact details are up on the about page of the site. Business heads who want to jump into as a branding opportunity for themselves, just need to follow @exectweets and the team there would decide whether to add your twitter stream to the site.

Numbers? Everyone who thinks it is a monetization step would soon be talking the number as the Twitter business model has been one of intense speculation and debate over the past year. Even we have blogged quite a lot about it over the past few months. It was just today morning that I spoke about Twitter needing to look beyond traditional advertising methods to make money and lo we have news on that front. Words spread really quickly these days, and ideas even faster. Kidding about that, however, the point is it is definitely an interesting monetization model from Twitter’s perspective. It uses to advantage its huge and unique data of tweets. Has created a niche site which will therefore be a perfect branding opportunity which niche endeavors tend to provide.

An interesting first step nevertheless.

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Skype Goes Corporate Via SIP

Skype is trying hard to make sense of it’s 2.6 billion dollar evaluation when it was sold to ebay as it’s holding company ebay is now willing to get rid of the company. Skype’s 405 million user peer-to-peer Internet telephony service has recently announced a partnership with Nokia, where it will come pre-loaded, initially on Nokia’s flagship device N97.  Now the latest update is that Skype announced a new version supporting corporate phone systems (PBX) which use Session Initiation Protocol.

SkypeforSIP ( is in Beta and the key-features include

* Receive and manage inbound calls from Skype users worldwide on SIP-enabled PBX systems; connecting the company Web site to the PBX system via click-to-call
* Place calls with Skype to landlines and mobile phones worldwide from any connected SIP-enabled PBX; reducing costs with Skype’s low-cost global rates
* Purchase Skype’s online numbers, to receive calls to the corporate PBX from landlines or mobile phones
* Manage Skype calls using their existing hardware and system applications such as call routing, conferencing, phone menus and voicemail; no additional downloads or training are required

Now what does that exactly mean?

Now you a corporate customer can signup for the service and identify your IP-PBX and associate one or more skype names with your IP-PBX. so that when a skype user calls your skype ID’s it will be redirected to the associated PBX number.

With SIP trunking you can use skype to call PSTN numbers using Skypeout on skype’s cheap calling rates, and also you can buy an online number from skype in any of the 20 supported countries (which doesn’t include India) to receive calls on to your IP-PBX system.

Though the service looks attractive where businesses can now reduce their costs of international calling using skypeout, Dan York pointed out that it’s not quite true for now as SkypeforSIP beta only supports G.729 codec which means that the user has to buy additional licenses from the IP-PBX vendor, while reportedly skype is going through testing to make the much more widely used royalty free G.711 codec very soon.

Skype reportedly had $550 million in revenues last year and it needs to grow revenue fast to make itself a buyable asset.

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Can Social Media Save The Day For Online Travel?

Recently Social Media as a term touched an all time high on the google trends chart and this followed by one of the bloggers at Mashable asking the question whether Social Media was an Industry in itself.

So social media is big globally and its just getting bigger. The other industry that is big but is facing hard time is the online travel industry. According to this report a few days ago both online and offline travel players were having a hard time converting any business this summer. The report states that online players like have seen a fall in conversions from 12% to 7%. According to Sachin Bhatia of Makemytrip even international travel has been down since a year. On a macro level according to the Travel Agents Federation of India, an apex body of travel agents, only 20 to 30 per cent of the inventory has been sold.

Given the above status can one say social media is the opportunity for travel players? The answer is YES!

As per this article social media marketing is driving conversions for travel players globally. Look at this chart below:

While both the above graphs are global in nature its not difficult to believe that the same theory could be applied to India where social media is pretty big with over 12 million orkut users and with twitter meets happening often and where facebook could attract a nationwide campaign against politicians. All in all it may be the time for travel players to give social media marketing a real thought and drive results from the same.

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A Fall in Online Advertising is Just a Reflection of Economy and not A Call on Online Advertising Itself

Yesterday I happened to read a guest post on Techcrunch by Eric clemons, a qualified professor in matters of operations and information management. It was also tweeted and bookmarked quite a bit if Tweetbook is to be believed. In a very descriptive post he placed his views on the current online advertising scenario and concluded that online advertising as we know it is bound to fold up.

A majority of his views seemed to be based on the premise that people just don’t like  or trust advertising and it interrupts what they are looking for. He explains that online advertising doesn’t work because it impedes the way people use the web and therefore doesn’t derive the expected result of advertising. This therefore leads to online advertising not working and hence the dwindling revenues for publishers.

I have my reservations however in accepting this view.

One of the facets of digital advertising is it is measurable, while we have debated before on whether it has impacted negatively for digital media, one thing we can’t deny is that it is an important aspect. What it does is it provides information on how an advertisement performs. We know how many sales or leads are being generated on a certain site and it’s performance relative to the traffic it generates. In times better than todays falling sales meant non performing ad copies or landing page content, or perhaps a failed product.

However, even with the best ad, a truly innovative product sales might not happen in today’s times, simply because the demand has dipped. The demand again has dipped not because people have lost interest, but they can’t afford spending. So the interest remains while the spending power has reduced. It suggests a scenario where people click on ads but don’t end up buying a product. Essentially a money sucking campaign. What’s the easiest thing to say and do at such a point of time - online ads are not working, let’s cut our budget on that end.

This is the reason advertising revenues are falling. Changing times require change in objectives and not change in the way of work. Publishers who used to earn in tens of millions till some time last year couldn’t have earned it if online ads didn’t work, and it can’t suddenly stop working either.

Though I do agree with one point in part with Clemons.

He suggests that as a different medium, the web will need to find its own way of generating revenue different from that of television and print. Just the way television and print found a way different from sports and events prior to them.

With the advent of tools like Facebook and Twitter, this is a notion I agree with. They are fundamentally different from other web publishers around because they are an environment themselves. In such scenario advertising can work only if it remains within the environment, which isn’t the case now. Such environments will need to find their own way of monetizations different from online ads elsewhere. But for the others it is just a matter of waiting for demand to egg back.

I have a feeling that the people who agree with Clemon’s hypothesis do so by looking at the way a lot of seemingly interactive ads behave. In the name of rich media and interaction a lot of these ads just turn out to be time and bandwidth suckers without providing any value to the viewer or for the advertiser therefore. A point that I often repeat at my office is about the fact that everyone is online for information either about oneself, someone else or something that is beneficial for them to know. Often web users are aware of the information they seek, at other times they just have a vague idea, that’s the reason search engines are so popular. For instance I just have an idea that I need some information on audio tools for my car, a specific idea would have been I need kenwood speakers. This is where online advertising comes in. I am not talking about contextual advertising, but about providing specific information.

Ads need to direct and speed up access to information, to that extent even a good usable web design is part of online advertising. And for as long as people browse, online advertising will exist as well, hale and hearty.

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India’s Lok Sabha Polls Takes Over The Web - To Vote Or Not To Vote?

The upcoming Lok Sabha election buzz is all over the web. If you are online reading blogs then more often than not you will be seeing a banner ad with advani on it. And thats not all more and more websites are being launched keeping the upcoming elections in mind. So while some of them are puring providing information on elections and asking you to vote some are actually leveraging the upcoming elections to showcase their brands. Also with BJP already going all guns blazing on the web other parties are also keen on taking the jump and are starting with launching their websites.

Here is a lowdown on all the action thats pointing towards the upcoming polls:

Brands Leveraging the Upcoming Elections

Tata Tea - - This has been by far the longest and the most vocal online and offline campaign leveraging the upcoming elections. The whole objective of the site is to ask people to vote and garner atleast 1 billion votes this elections. All in all this has been probably one of the best integrated campaigns Ive seen in a few years.

Idea Cellular - - This is the newest campaign to leverage the elections and has attracted trememndous traction in just 3 weeks of its launch. As the name suggests its an idea sharing platform for what change can be brought about in India. It has already garnered over 1500 ideas and over 1 lakh votes.

Websites Launched By Political Parties and Individuals For Polls

CPM Launches Website - BJP seems to have had its impact on other parties so much so that CPI(M), which was once bitterly opposed to computerisation in the country on the plea that it would result in job losses  has launched its website It becomes the first Left party in India to host such a site.

Locate your Polling Booth - Andhra Pradesh Election commissioner has launched a new website where voters from Hyderabad can search there polling booth locations. Voters can also retrieve this information via sms. The service is right now available to Hyderabad voters only and can be accessed from

Public Interest causes and campaigns on the web - This is an initiative to make sure that no candidates with criminal backgrounds get elected in the upcoming elections. The traction this campaign is recieving can be judged from its facebook page which has over 4,777 members. This group is created by well known VC Alok Mittal of Canaan partners who is also supporting this campaign. - Insite Digital headed by Mr Amit Tripathi (Who is also the founder of id8labs) has launched an edutainment site on Indian politics also leveraging the upcoming elections. This looks like a longer play than just this elections and gives comprehensive information on all the parties contesting.

We have showcased above web properties that are encouraging participation in the elections but there are some who don’t want us to vote: - Well seeing is believing this site says everything opposite to what the other sites are proposing. The site asks you not to vote and focuses on those who have scammed India.

Check their intro below:

“So while the Times Of India tries to find new leaders for a new age (good luck gentlemen!), we focus instead on those who Bleed India; Masters of the Scam, Tigers of the Tightrope: Surely they deserve some acknowledgement of their genius - in staying above the law, beyond the law, in making it and in breaking it..wah! wah! Ladies and gentlemen…you have led us and yes you have bled us.”

While you may think Times of India might be pissed at this site Surprise Surprise! This site is owned by the times group itself. Check who is data here. Im not sure what the purpose of this site is but I saw its ad in today’s times publication mumbai mirror as well. God only knows what’s cooking here. Anyone have a clue?

Well vote or no vote this amount of buzz online is surely going to have its impact one way or another. The best impact being is that if the parties who are actually using the web medium do win then it will ratify the power of the web as an influential medium and one can then expect bigger budgets from corporates and from political parties in the future.

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